Glenn Rolfe is an up and comer in the Horror genre and has recently had three of his works reviewed here on HAD. His latest, Boom Town, from Samhain Publishing is due out in early April. He offers some thoughts about his writing, his influences and how he came by his stories. Check out the Giveaways page for your chance to win a copy of his new novella, Boom Town.
1) Let’s start at the beginning: How did writing find you? Or did you find it?
Through my teens and twenties, I wrote a lot of songs. I played in punk bands and felt I had something to share with those who would listen. When I hit my thirties and found the music drying up a bit, my love for reading Horror opened a new door. I made the leap from short, compact storytelling through songs to writing novels.
I was shocked how rapidly it came on and how much I liked what came out. That was almost four years ago. I haven’t stopped since.
2) What is your writing process? Do you plan everything in advance or enjoy letting the story take you wherever it’s going to go and not know the details yourself in advance?
I almost exclusively fly by the seat of my pants. For one, I can’t plot worth a damn, and for two, I find it excites me to be the first reader of whatever mysterious adventure my mind takes on. If I’m not thinking twelve steps ahead, hopefully neither will the reader; we can crash into whatever turns are coming together.
3) Some authors dislike being categorized but you seem to fit comfortably within the realm of being a horror writer. Are you okay with that description? And if so, what is it about writing horror stories that appeal to you?
I’m fine wherever people want to put me. I love Horror literature. I’m not as big on Horror movies, but when it comes to storytelling, there’s so many places you can reach to with a great Horror tale. You can touch on love, death, sex, violence, and every little fear that could ever want to slip the skin from your flesh. The best stories in any genre are the ones that push as many buttons as possible in the reader.
4) To your mind, what makes something horrific over, say, thrilling?
I think it’s the difference between saying ‘Oh, God” over ‘Oh no’. It’s about making your reader frightened inwardly rather than externally. You can’t escape or hide from what lies within, right? Horror tends to tangle with your soul, your moral compass. Whether it’s a straight up possession story (be that a demon, or an alien force) or corruption of the soul type tale a la Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Horror is a more inclusive and intrusive type of fright.
I work at a hotel. I do two overnight shifts there. One night I walked past the pool and imagined someone getting out. All of a sudden, I became that someone and then imagined something had followed out after me. I got goose bumps walking away from the pool room and imagined the hallway freezing beneath my feet. In order to play out the scene, I shut myself in the bathroom on the first floor and stood before the mirror. I let my mind play out the opening scene in the story right then and there. When that managed to scare the shit out of me I knew I had something.
I returned to the front desk and started hammering out a rough version of that scene.
6) What did you learn from writing it? And did any of those lessons play into Abraham’s Bridge or your upcoming Boom Town?
I learned a lot. Mostly, I learned what I needed to do going forward. I learned from The Haunted Halls’ weaknesses. I’ve always been a big character guy. I mean, the people in your story are who and what your readers are going to follow. In The Haunted Halls, although I think the characters are there enough to make them real and pull you in, I definitely could have built them up more. I find that I sacrificed that aspect of the story in turn for a faster paced romp.
With my first two pieces for Samhain Publishing, I really wanted to do what my favorite authors had done before me. I wanted to create these people that you rooted for or against. I found that it makes the horrors they face that much more intense.
7) Reading these latter two novellas from Samhain Publishing, I got a sense that Stephen King is a heavy influence on your work. Is that fair? Which other authors also influence you?
King is always the light we reach for, he’s the master. Other than him, I started with Richard Laymon and Bentley Little as my go-to’s. Since I’ve started to write I’ve been in awe of guys like Ronald Malfi and Brian Moreland. Malfi’s ability to atmospherically set a scene is inspiring. His characters are always so real. And his power of description is second to none. Moreland is also great at setting a scene and scaring the piss out of you. I’m also really digging Mercedes M. Yardley for the strange sweetness she brings to the genre. She and Malfi had a heavy influence on Abram’s Bridge.
In like 2008 or 2009, maybe even a bit later, I saw a news report about these underground booms in the state of Wisconsin. People were there were calling them earthquakes. They happened over a number of nights and it was a really bizarre thing. I hadn’t started writing yet, but thought, ‘wow, that would make a great horror story.’
Fast forward a few years, I saw a call for novels and novellas by another publisher. I thought, well, I don’t have time to craft a novel and make the submission call deadline, but maybe I could write something shorter. I knew that I wanted to write the story about the “booms’” and figured this was the time. I sent the first draft in to the publisher to make the deadline and it was kicked back to me, and rightfully so, it was a rough sketch of what I eventually sent into Samhain.
9) It feels like it could have been a much longer story (ie. I didn’t really want it to end so soon). Do you consciously make an effort to keep things short and sharp with your writing?
I do. I feel like a lot of writers right now are sort of overdoing things. It’s so easy to write too much in a scene, or to add a long sidewinding flashback. Does that give the story more depth? Or the character? Sure, but the problem is that if it isn’t done right, it comes off as self-indulgent and takes the reader away from the present story. Of course, King and Straub are the masters of these little side treks, but that’s two of the best in the business. I’ve always read that when you write the second draft, you add all of these more expansive character details and story details, but on the third draft, you have to be ready to cut the fat. That’s what I try to do. I want that good meat. I don’t want you to waste your time chewing and cutting around shit you don’t want. Whether I succeed there or not, that’s for the readers to decide.
Between you and I, there is definitely more to Boom Town. Maybe we’ll see that in a year or two.
10) Great to hear! Do you have a favourite of your published works? Or is that like asking a parent which is their favourite child?
Ah, yes. My favorite piece I’ve written is actually not out yet. That would be my first Samhain novel, Blood and Rain (due this fall). Of the published ones…I’d say Boom Town is my best piece, and that Abram’s Bridge is the first one that made me feel like I had a grip on what I was doing.
11) What’s next on the agenda for Glenn Rolfe?
Officially, my next novel is a werewolf story called, Blood and Rain. That will be released by Samhain Publishing this fall. I also just finished another novella called, Things We Fear, and I’m on the second draft of my next novel, Becoming. I will offer them to Samhain, but we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.
12) Good luck with them both. And finally, your top five recommended horror reads would be …?
I’m going to go ahead and assume everyone has read ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, and Jack Ketchum and go from there.
Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi
The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea
The Resort by Bentley Little
Hell House by Richard Matheson
The Resurrectionsist by Wrath James White.
Glenn Rolfe, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks again for your time and all the best with the next phase of your career.