Today's guest is Brian Solomon from The Vault of Horror!
• What was your first experience with horror literature, the time you realized you were bitten by the reading bug?
My first experience with horror literature was Stephen King's Pet Sematary, which my dad lent to me in the 5th or 6th grade! Looking back, that seems like a crazy thing to do, but hey, it got me thinking about horror literature.
• Are you ever terrified by horror literature? What elements make you shiver?
Great writing can make you feel all kinds of emotions, so yes. I think the most important element is establishing an atmosphere of dread. That's what all the great horror authors do well.
• Who are some of your favorite writers? Why are you drawn to them?
I'll always love Edgar Allan Poe, he's another one I discovered early. And H.P. Lovecraft is a relatively new discovery--I just picked up a volume of his Complete Fiction, and I'm devouring it. He created this amazing world, and it just draws you in--he's almost a horror version of Tolkien. Of the more modern writers, I'm a big fan of Dan Simmons.
• Do you have any guilty pleasures or horror-ble reading experiences to spill your guts about?
My guilty pleasure would be things like zombie Christmas carols, or zombie love songs. Those type of horror novelty books. I find them endlessly amusing.
• What would you say is your favorite “type” of horror story (ex: “dark force invades a small New England town”)? Why?
My favorite type of horror story falls into the category of "weird fiction"--bizarre and surreal tales of the supernatural.
• If you were the head of a major film studio, what work of horror literature would you adapt to the screen?
I would finally get someone to pull the trigger on the damn World War Z movie! That thing could be the horror epic of our times, and I've been impatiently waiting for it ever since they first announced it six years ago!
• On that same note, what would your choices be for the best and worst existing examples of film adaptations of genre works?
For the best example of a film adaptation, I'd have to go with Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Stephen King may have hated it, but he's crazy anyway. Kubrick took some liberties with King's work, but he turned a good horror novel into possibly the best horror film ever made. I can almost say the same thing of Hitchcock adapting Robert Bloch's Psycho. Worst example of a horror novel adaptation. I've always been very disappointed with Interview with the Vampire. That one had so much more potential. Maybe someone will take another crack at it someday.
• What’s the most horrifying non-horror book you’ve ever read? (As in a book that is not usually recognized as being part of the genre but that fits your bill for terror?)
There's something about Frank Herbert's vision of the distant future in the Dune novels that has always creeped the living hell out of me. Maybe it's the vastness of it all, or the complete alien nature of it.
• What’s a scene from a horror story that you’ve never forgotten about?
I just read At the Mountains of Madness for the very first time (oh no, blasphemy!) and I have to say I was holding the book with white knuckles during the scene in which the explorers are chased down by the shoggoth. I don't think I'll be forgetting that anytime soon.
• Is there a horror classic that you either think is overrated or just feel no need to get around to?
Lots of people have said this, but I think Bram Stoker's Dracula may be a bit overrated as a novel. Stoker's use of colloquial language is very distracting--it's as if he's trying to be the British Mark Twain. And the Count doesn't even appear in about 80% of the book. I think there have been movie adaptations that were much better than the source material.
• Have you ever dabbled in writing horror fiction yourself?
Yes, I have. I actually have had a story published in Midnight Echo, the journal of the Australian Horror Writers' Association. It's called "Hell Hath No Fury", and it's kind of a Lovecraftian romance story, if you can imagine such a thing.
• Who, in your estimation, is an underrated author who deserves much more attention and claim in the horror community? Got any books to refer us to?
My esteemed colleague BJ-C of Day of the Woman has been touting the work of Scott Kenemore, and I'd have to agree. His stuff doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. I'd point to The Zen of Zombie as a great example.
• Speaking of reference, what are some great nonfiction horror books that get your recommendation?
I'd recommend Stephen King's Danse Macabre, as well as David Skal's The Monster Show--two great histories of horror. I also love Jamie Russell's Book the Dead--a great retrospective on zombie cinema in particular.
• What was the last horror book you read?
Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, as I mentioned earlier.
• If you were stranded on a cliché, what would be the one horror book you would take with you?
I would have to take Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination. It's the English major in me.
• In the spirit of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, what would be a horror literature mash-up you would pay to see?
Charles Dickens' Bleak House of Wax.
• If you could assume the role of a character from horror literature, who (or what) would it be?
Who wouldn't want to be Dorian Gray, really? Have to hand it to Oscar Wilde on that one.
• What was your favorite ending to a horror story?
Going back to Poe, I'd say the ending of "The Tell Tale Heart" does it for me every time.
• Which horror literature villain or monster would you definitely not want to meet in an abandoned abbey?
Barker's Cenobites from The Hellbound Heart. Especially since I have a pretty solid idea of what they look like, from the movies. Barker is unparalleled in his ability to conjure up nightmares.
• Since we’re enthusiasts for anthologies and collections, what’s a short horror story that you think has all the goods?
So many! You can't go wrong with Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror." My favorite less-heard of tale would be Stephen King's "I Am the Doorway", which was featured in his anthology Night Shift.
• And finally, if your life was a best-selling horror novel, what would the title and tagline be?
THE HURRYING: "There are 24 hours in a day. That may seem like a lot. It isn't."
--Thanks to Brian for stopping over and be sure to check out his premiere blog on all aspects of horror culture at The Vault of Horror. And remember to send your answers for a session of Charnel Chats to grimreaders [at] yahoo [dot] com. Anyone can participate. We're dying to hear from you!