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My friends call me ScaryBob. C. Robert Cales is the name on my novels. I write paranormal thrillers and I’ll define that because some of my scenes taken out of context might be grounds to question my assertion that I do not write horror.
Horror has a tendency to be plot driven with only enough character development to allow the reader to know who the zombies are about to eat. My version of horror, if you insist on calling it that, is character driven. I create a soft spot in the reader’s heart by giving them characters full of life. My intent is to engage the reader on an emotional level. Love and hate become tools, but before any of that happens I plant the seed of horror, although almost subliminal. It’s a whisper in the darkness.
I leave tidbits for the reader to discover, like sharks teeth among shell debris at the edge of the water. If the reader takes the time for a walk along the beach they will find them. Looking for them from a speedboat is not very productive. If a reader is willing to walk the beach and make friends along the way they will likely be terrified by my stories. Readers who want zombies in the surf as soon as the walk starts will probably not get me as an author. An author can’t make every reader happy. My primary goal is to make myself happy and expand my circle of readers as I do so.
What first inspired you to start writing?
The short answer is that my imagination had a gun to my head and it was either my fingers or my brains on the keyboard. The long answer is that I was born with a triple dose of imagination. At the tender age of ten I became addicted to the horror genre at the hands of Christopher Lee as Dracula. When I was about sixteen my imagination started demanding an outlet. I thought about making movies, but even to my teenage mind the startup costs were prohibitive. Pencil and paper, on the other hand, were dirt cheap.
I was born with the imagination, but writing skills are acquired through hard work and practice. I dabbled in science fiction and political intrigue, but nothing was satisfying me. When I wasn’t pursuing the writing craft I was feeding my addiction to horror. Addiction to horror means I watched anything with the slightest promise of delivering the next big scare. When it comes to scary movies there is a great deal of very lame crap. I was leaving one such movie, grumbling to myself that I could do that good. It was at that instant that I witnessed a three-way collision between my imagination, my love of horror and my need to write.
And what attracted you to writing horror, sorry paranormal thrillers?
Hahahaha! Yes, paranormal thrillers. Horror is what clicks with me, but I see the problems with it, namely the usual lack of character development, of course that’s not something I learned right away.
Whenever someone sets out to teach themselves to write they need unwitting mentors. They need to study the works of the masters of their chosen genre. The mentors I selected were Stephen King and Anne Rice, who seemed to represent polar opposites of the spectrum. Each of them taught me very significant things. Stephen taught me the value of character development in The Stand. Stu Redman and Larry Underwood had been traveling together. I loved both of these guys. It came time for them to part and go on their own task. Five simple words absolutely crushed me. “Stu never saw Larry again.” Oh my God, what Stephen did to me. One of my friends was going to buy the farm and worse yet I didn’t know which one. Oh, the agony! Oh, the lesson! Anne further defined that lesson by taking the vampire Lestat, a bloodthirsty killer, and turning him into a beloved character. Stephen, Anne, if you happen to read this interview, thank you.
Which author do you most admire and why?
Honest, I’m not looking at the questions before I write the answers, but it seems that I’m ahead of you since I’ve already answered the question, for the most part, anyway. Stephen King and Anne Rice were my selected mentors and they drove me to become the writer I am. Everything I wrote was compared to their best works and I was not inclined to accept anything less from myself.
The Shining scared the bejesus out of me, but the mechanism was very subliminal. Night shift, scary story, mirror, a volatile combination. Yeah, you see it coming. Story details fresh in my mind, making night rounds, catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror, come out of my skin. Yeah, I want to be the writer who serves up that kind of brew.
The Mayfair Witches of The Witching Hour, the vampire Lestat of Interview With A Vampire, when I think of the worlds Anne Rice has taken me into I get goosebumps. That’s the kind of writer I want to be.
Yes, I know. You asked for which author I admire most. I’m sorry, I can’t choose.
Where do your best ideas come from?
I have an imagination that runs 24/7, but the answer isn’t quite that simple. I develop the concepts and the main characters and then I turn it over to my imagination. I watch as the story develops. In the beginning I only know how the novel ends in the most general terms only, the bad guy gets it. I don’t know how, where or by whom until it’s revealed to me. Now here’s the kicker. I’m sure the entire story is already written and stored somewhere in my subconscious mind. Occasionally I take a misstep in the story and when I do I’m introduced to a good case of writer’s block. When I go back and correct whatever sin I’ve committed against the master plan the creative flow returns.
One possible answer to your original question about the source of my ideas is a little creepy. It’s an invisible alien intelligence. Maybe I’m not the one dreaming up the ideas. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m forced to write. Oh, God, I’ve been enslaved by an alien ghost with a deep desire to scare readers.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
Early in my pursuit of the writing craft someone told me that my characters were like cardboard cutouts moving around in the story. I don’t remember who it was, but it was my first lesson on character development.
Regardless of how dynamic the plot might be, if it doesn’t have an impact on characters with depth, the story will be flat and lifeless. There is also a counterpoint. All character development and no plot is boring. The author’s job is to reach a reasonable balance.
The lesson on character development really came home when I was working on my first story, Devil Glass. It was originally a short story and after three or four rewrites it still didn’t have the impact I wanted. That’s when the whole thing about character development really came home to me. When I finally identified the missing element I knew I had to write a novel.
What is your favorite word?
Wow, talk about a low blow. That’s a little like asking me to identify the most beautiful woman in the world. That’s a nearly impossible feat. Every time I focus on one ten more line up next to her.
If I had to pick one, you know, gun to my head kind of thing, I would want a word that connects with all things, focuses on the innermost being, the first prime number, the beginning of all things. That word would be I. I is the root of the human experience and there is where you find the heart of good writing. I think. I feel. I love.
What are you working on at the moment?
It’s my third novel. In coming up with a title I had to use the powers granted to me by my poetic license. I had to coin the word reincarnology or the technology of reincarnation. Reincarnology describes an alien technology discovered circa 1625. In twenty-four hours the technology produces a twenty-something clone of the donor complete with all memories. Throughout the centuries they have been inducting gifted people into endless life. They have managed to keep the secret for four hundred years, but their secret has been slowly transforming them into psychopaths. Someone recognized the truth and has defected. The secret is in the hands of a journalist and is about to be exposed. Plugging the leak has become their sole focus. If they fail there is a plan to eliminate the need to keep the secret. They are going to kill the population chained to the wheel of life and death. They are going to kill all of us.
Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My latest release is The Bookseller. The Bookseller is a bookstore across Tremont St. from Boston Common, owned and operated by George Saunders, a lovable rare book dealer. The bookstore and residence above was a wedding present from his father-in-law thirty years before the story begins. George is married to his college sweetheart who runs a coffee parlor in a corner of the bookstore. The coffee parlor is the morning meeting place for other business owners on the cobblestone mall. Their lives are about to be turned upside down.
Carlos Ramirez, drug lord, child molester, murderer.....that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nonhuman spirit, hundreds of past lives, billions in treasure, bloody footprints across history, memories of everything. His best men have developed a process for infusing liquid cocaine into the pages of books and withdrawing it at the destination point. Carlos is looking for a bookstore in the perfect location for acquisition to complete the next step of his plan.
My Goodreads link is https://www.goodreads.com/scarybob
On my blog you can read an interview with Carlos Ramirez. Much to my surprise the journalist from my third novel volunteered for the assignment. Who am I to deny that kind of initiative? He’s not sure he will ever be the same. Chilling.