Behind the Book with Stuart Conover
This week I'm thrilled to introduce to the guru of all things horror, Stuart Conover! I met Stuart a number of years ago when he gave me the opportunity to interview authors for him on his much-loved site The Horror Tree. Now I finally get to question the man himself!
Liz - Tell us a little bit about your part of the world?
Stuart - Hello all! I’m from the Midwest of the United States. Specifically, I’m in a suburb of Chicago and have lived here, in the city, and thanks to college in the farmlands further south as well. It’s a vibrant area of the States full of diversity, amazing food, and is a haven to any genre fans from fantasy to science fiction and horror.
Liz - Not many people are fortunate enough to have a live-in muse. How does your wife, Leah, inspire you?
Stuart - My wife has been one of my strongest motivators to follow what I am passionate about. If it weren’t for her, I likely wouldn’t have had any short stories published, let alone the pile that I have as well as have a novel which I’ll be shopping around later this year. A form of her has not yet appeared in any of my stories though I do have characters in two very rough works in progress who is loosely inspired by her.
Liz - Where else do you draw inspiration from?
Stuart - Storytelling has always been part of my life. From a young age I fell in love with reading and have ingested thousands of novels and likely even more than that count on short stories at this point. That isn’t including films or television shows. I used to be able to devour a book in two days on average, so my brain is always jumping down various rabbit holes. On top of that, I used to overthink literally everything in my life from reality to imagined scenarios. It took me quite a long time to realize that the one way I could quiet that voice was to send my thoughts into creating entirely new characters and worlds for them to inhabit. In some ways, writing is a form of therapy.
Liz - You’re a talented drabble writer. What are some of the challenges of writing this type?
Stuart - Honestly, telling a complete story is the hardest part of being confined by 100-words. I’ve often gone long into details even on shorter ideas so being able to develop a character or situation to make it interesting or exciting with such a limited space has been a challenging puzzle that I’ve enjoyed working on. This was especially true over 2020 due to the pandemic’s effects on my writing output.
Liz - How does your process differ between writing drabble and short stories?
Stuart - While length constraints tend to put both types of stories into a quick shot of someone’s life, drabbles are often more of a quick check in while a short story tends to give the ability to start looking at a character over a more extended period of time.
Liz - You’ve had your work published in several anthologies, both collaborative and solo projects. Can you tell us about them?
Stuart - Outside of my drabbles, anyone who has followed my works know that the majority of my writing falls into one of three worlds. The first is a newly forming dystopia which is being built after a zombie apocalypse in a world which doesn’t consist of just humans but werewolves as well. This is the oldest world that I had created where the novel that I’ll be hoping to place that has drafts of both a prequel, a sequel, and a novella prequel fleshed out. The second world deals with cosmic horror, cults, ancient kingdoms, and so much more. I’ve had a few shorts published in this one and it has been running for almost the same amount of time as the first. The third is a fantasy world which I’ve been building up over the past couple of years.
Liz - Do you have a favourite drabble or short story you’ve written?
Stuart - That is a tough one, I think my two favorite short stories were releases in 2018. ‘The Shortcut’ which was released in ‘DeadCades: The Infernal Decimation.’ This one was loosely inspired from my love of 80s science fiction and horror mashups that was rekindled when ‘Stranger Things’ slapped us all in the face with nostalgia. Around the same time ‘The Creature’ came out in ‘Primogen: Origin of Monsters’ which was not only an homage to ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon’ but also fits into world of cosmic horror mentioned above.
Liz - Which do you love more? Working in IT or writing?
Stuart - That is tough. While most people would likely jump on their writing, and I love writing, As I mentioned above it feels like a form of therapy to me. That being said, I also am good at my job. My current position is fulfilling and I enjoy the company I work for, what we do, and everyone that I work with in a role that that I know is fulfilling. Prior to this job writing would have been the answer, these days, it’s a bit of both.
Liz - As a lover of movies, what’s your preferred genre?
Stuart - For the longest time it was horror. However, I grew up as a comic book geek so between the budgets of science fiction movies skyrocketing and how much the Marvel Cinematic Universe has modernized my childhood fandom it really is all about comic book movies these days for me. It helps that my kids love them as much as I do.
Liz - What would be your top five movies of all-time?
Stuart - First up. I’m going to get some slack for this because it is a franchise film and really not a piece of art. For me, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ takes it on pure entertainment value. The visuals, the franchise build up, and most specifically that ending which left the entire theatre silent. Secondly is ‘Alien’ which is actually the film that gave me a love for horror. I saw it FAR too early having snuck out of bed when I was rather young in order to watch it on HBO that gave me nightmares for weeks. This installed in me not only a long-term love of being afraid but a pure enjoyment of horror set in space. Third up is The Shawshank Redemption just because I feel that I’ve watched the movie over 50 times and will still end up putting it on. I don’t know if it is Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating it or just such a quality story being told but I just don’t get bored with it. Fourth up is ‘Star Wars: A New Hope.’ Yes, George Lucas may have gone off the deep end with the edits and prequel series but the world he created has not only inspired generations at this point but has been fleshed out so well in novel and animated form that it has just become a huge part of my life. Rounding out the list will be Iron Man. I’m prefacing this by saying that this is actually not my favorite Marvel Studios film. In fact, I don’t think it is even in the top 10 at this point. However, it introduced the world to the MCU and because of that has to sit in my top five because without Iron Man, the rest of the franchise wouldn’t exist.
Liz - You’re also a comic book fan. Do you collect them and if so, which ones?
Stuart - Hah, Marvel is at the top of my list. I still actively read most of their titles. Following this is anything from Mike Mignola over at Dark Horse comics as well as a variety of their other horror offerings. Finally, I love the various horror and science fiction miniseries’ which Image Comics releases.
Liz - What would be your dream comic book to own?
Stuart - While I read comics almost strictly digitally these days, I would have to say Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man. Not only did I always relate to Peter Parker as a kid and would cherish having it, it would also likely to allow me to retire someday in the future if I could allow myself to part with it.
Liz - You’ve hinted that you’re working on your first novel. This is so exiting! Can you tell us anything about it, or are you keeping it under wraps for now?
Stuart - My first novel takes place in a world overrun by zombies. Humanity’s last chance to recruit the werewolves which they’ve locked up for being different as shifters are immune to the virus. The story follows Emily who is a shifter thrust into the center of the fray. She has always been separate from her kind and now has to decide what she’s willing to do in order to earn freedom not only for herself but the rest of the werewolves who are still held captive.
Liz - If you could work with any writer, who would they be and why?
Stuart - I have two answers to this one. The first is Stephen King. Immediately establishes you as a someone deserving notice by the Big 5 that comes with a pay day and movie deal! As I do not feel that my writing style actually would in any way, shape, or form fit with King, realistically I would say someone like Victor LaValle on the cosmic horror end of things, Rhiannon Frater for zombies, or when it comes to fantasy that likely is the roughest one. For their work on ‘Dragonlance’ I would say that Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are at the top of the list with Raymond E. Feist being shortly after. I suppose it really depends which genre is in question!
Liz - What advice can you share with other writers when it comes to juggling everything?
Stuart - If you aren’t writing full time and you have a LOT on your plate you really need to put time in your schedule to make it happen. If you don’t prioritize it in your life, it just won’t happen. Even if it is what you truly enjoy doing there is always an excuse to get in the way and if you let them, you’ll never get pen to paper.
Liz - Where can our readers follow you?
Stuart - My homepage which really needs a fresh coat of paint can be found at https://www.stuartconover.com. For those looking for more immediate updates the place to be is to follow my author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stuart-Conover/e/B0082MSIFC. Finally, anyone looking to interact with me will be most successful by finding me on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/stuartconover