Welcome to interview seven of my week long series as part of the Coffin Hop Horror Web Tour. I have a few podcast and a few written interviews organized over at timothycward.com. Today, we welcome Greg Mitchell, author of The Coming Evil Trilogy. He is also an author in the upcoming Monsters! anthology put out by A Flame in the Dark, of which I, too, will be published. I’m giving away a copy as well as an ebook of the Feckless anthology, both of which feature authors from my leg of the Coffin Hop Tour.
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Tim: As a fellow Horror author I love writing stories that explore what
terrifies me. What do you love about writing Horror?
Greg — I believe that a lot of people who don’t “get” horror often sell it short. Horror, as a genre, is very intricate and offers something for nearly everyone. I think every horror author has something different that they get out of it, but it all comes down to fear. Some authors write in order to incite fear, but now that I think about it, I find it funny that that’s not really why I write horror. I think, primarily, I write it to face MY fears. The first movie monster that ever terrified me was Freddy Krueger.
I was just, like eleven or twelve, but I was fast on my way to becoming a teenager–and from what I had seen in Freddy movies, I knew that he killed teenagers. And while they slept! So, Freddy was a serious fear of mine as it seemed to be this force I would have to contend with when I became a teenager, ha ha. It really bothered me. I thought a lot about Freddy in those days. I had a deep fear of him, but, you know it wasn’t really Freddy I was afraid of–it was growing up, growing old, and dying, really. Freddy was just the symbol of that eventuality. Even back then, before I knew I wanted to be “a writer”, I dreamt up stories on the bus ride to school about how I would fight Freddy, and it made me feel better. In a very real way, that’s the same thing I’m doing now. I imagine the things that scare me (and others, I hope), and I write about how I might deal with those and fight back. Horror is very empowering to me. And, before you ask, no I’m not still afraid of Freddy, but I do enjoy his movies :p
Tim: Along those lines, what are some horrific circumstances and themes
that come to mind from The Coming Evil Trilogy?
Greg — It’s funny because, I started writing The Coming Evil Trilogy over ten years ago before I was married and had kids, so I’ve found that the things that scare me have changed. Now, any time I write about putting a child in danger, I start to squirm uncomfortably. I don’t like that. And I imagine a number of my readers don’t like it either–but I ask them to trust me and hold on, the heroes are soon to the rescue, ha ha. But the predominant theme in The Coming Evil Trilogy, as far as the horror is concerned, is the helplessness. Since the book deals with demons, I think about REAL demons and how, in real life, we wouldn’t be smarting off with some witty comeback when faced with some ancient evil. We would be absolutely powerless in the presence of an ACTUAL demon from hell. Ultimately, as I’m writing a Christian Horror series, that plays perfectly into what I want to say about faith–namely that, on our own, we ARE powerless to fight against hell. But with God, all things are possible. He is the source of our power and our confidence. Apart from Him, we are helpless to save ourselves, both as individuals, and as the human race.
Tim: Great answers. I still remember in vivid detail the time my brother
and I convinced our babysitter to let us watch Freddy. Ho man, I think
we made it as far as the kids going into the basement and then we were
cowering in our rooms unable to sleep.
Greg — Ha, ha, you know it’s funny now that I think of it. I’ve often said that “The Monster Squad” had this huge influence on my young life and it remains a great inspiration to the things I write. I realize, now, that I first watched The Monster Squad during that time I was so afraid of Freddy. I watch this movie about kids my own age fighting back monsters and it really encouraged me! Those foul-mouthed little monster hunters were my heroes :p Still are.
Tim: I like the idea of reading and writing Horror, as you said, for the
purpose of being empowered. Secular Horror is often the opposite,
ending stories in a state of utter despair and hopelessness (an
inadvertent testament to our powerlessness alone).
Greg — I agree. I hate downer endings. I mean, I know that bad things are gonna happen to good people and not everyone is going to make it out, but I hate watching a movie where a character goes through hell, and then at the end, they get killed anyway. I think, what was the point? Why did I waste my hour and half watching something where the characters never had a shot at surviving?
Was there a concern as you wrote these characters out of
their holes that the ending would feel too easy because of the use of
God’s power to save them?
Is there a point in Christian fiction where
the lesson learned of “have faith and God will save the day” becomes
so predictable that it ruins the suspense?
How do you maintain the
Greg — It IS a delicate balance and I know some critics have thought it provides too easy an answer. But, first off, I look at reality–the Bible says that, if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can tell this mountain to throw itself into the sea. I’ve yet to convince a mountain to take a belly flop in the ocean, so that shows me that “faith” is not just this magic spell that instantly banishes all the bad things in your life. It certainly hasn’t taken away all the bad things in MY life. Faith is there to get us through the bad things. And, at the end of the day, isn’t it God who takes care of our problems? Yes, we have responsibilities in those situations to act. I was reading in Acts the other day and I think it was a neat example of how human effort and divine intervention work together. When Peter comes to the lame man at the gate named Beautiful, he heals him in the name of Christ, while he’s helping him stand to his feet. Peter had to reach down into the dirt and physically help this man to stand, but then God moved in and completed the work by making sure the man could continue to stand, and walk, and leap and run.
In The Coming Evil Trilogy, the idea is NEVER that the characters kick off their shoes, recline in their favorite chair, and just pray that God handles all the monsters. They have to get out there in the war and fight–but when all is said and done, if God is not with them, they can’t win. God is the victor, but we have a part to play as well. As for maintaining suspense, again I look at real life. When someone you love is sick and dying, as a Christian you KNOW that God can heal this person–but the simple truth is, maybe He just won’t. Maybe it’s their time and God is not going to heal them. There’s a tremendous amount of suspense and fear there. But that’s where faith comes in. You trust that, even if God DOESN’T heal this person or fix this problem or destroy this demon, you’re going to trust Him that He knows what He’s doing and you’re going to get through it.
Tim: Did you ever see the Highway to Heaven episode where the bearded guy
becomes a werewolf? I haven’t figured out if that was an actual episode
or just a nightmare, lol.
Greg — Yeah, I remember that. My friend and I were talking about that just the other day, actually. So, no, you didn’t dream it, ha ha. I think it was their Halloween episode and, obviously, was paying tribue to the fact that Michael Landon (the lead actor in Highway to Heaven) starred in the ’50s drive-in flick “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” (which I recall liking quite a bit).
Tim: Either way, the fact that we both have such
memorable experiences with horror leads me to the common criticism
from Christians that we should not put our minds on evil things. How
do you (insert pointed finger and stern voice) go to sleep at night
knowing your stories may cause others to have nightmares?
Greg –Well, I don’t think anyone who has purchased my books has done so out of ignorance. I think if you buy my book, it’s because you like a little thrill. As for those who don’t approve of horror, I get that. Some Christians maybe have come out of occult backgrounds and horror is a temptation. In that case, I warn to stay away! But that doesn’t apply to everyone. At the end of the day, no matter how much Biblical basis I give for my story’s “mythology”, it’s still just fiction. It’s just meant to be a good time with some scares and some laughs. I have no problem sitting down with those who don’t approve of the fact that I write horror and explaining why I do. Usually at the end of that (lengthy) discussion, they “get it”. They may still not want to read it–and that’s okay–but they at least understand why it’s so special to me and see that maybe there is some redemption to the genre.
Tim: I read on your blog that the main character from the vampire story you
have in the Monsters anthology is in another anthology coming out
soon. Who is this guy and why does he deserve to have TWO stories
written about him?
Greg — The story in Monsters is “Divide and Conquer” and features my character Vinnie Caponi: Urban Mythologist. He’s kind of a poor man’s Van Helsing by way of John Candy in “Uncle Buck” meets a hard-nosed 1940s tough guy private investigator. How’s that for a combo! And why WOULDN’T you want to write more than one story with him! Over the years, I’ve wrangled my friends in to filming these really elaborate home horror movies and Vinnie is a character that came out of that. I just really love the guy and he’s fun to put into different monster situations. The other short story you’re referring to is “Metamorphosis” and is in A Cat of Nine Tales anthology from Rookhaven Publishing and is available now! It’s a vignette piece that gives you a peek into Vinnie’s origin story. I have also completed a novel that features Vinnie as part of the main cast and am in the process of shopping that around to different publishers. That one is more straight horror, but obviously still has shades of my faith throughout.
Tim: Uncle Buck the P.I., that’s hilarious. I look forward to reading those
as well. I pray your novel finds the right home. Is there a timetable
for the release of Book 3 in The Coming Evil Trilogy?
Greg –As it turns out, I’ve got a pretty big announcement to make on The Coming Evil front come Halloween morning on my blog at www.thecomingevil.com. Don’t miss it!
Thanks, Tim, for the opportunity. Fight the Good Fight!