1. First off, what is the scariest book you’ve ever read?
It’s a tie between Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel.
I was in junior high when King’s novel first came out, and a friend recommended it to me. I was a huge horror fan, and I was excited to read the book. But King’s horror was different than any I’d read before. His focus on what his characters were experiencing inside their minds as opposed to what was happening outside them made the horror far more impactful than anything I’d ever experienced. King’s approach taught me that horror is about what people experience, and it’s something I always keep in mind when writing my own fiction.
The Mothman Prophecies is a supposedly true account of paranormal events. I read it more or less around the same time I read Salem’s Lot. While the stories recounted in the book were scary, it was the last line of the book – a quote from Charles Fort – which absolutely terrified me: “If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?” That quote has resonated with me throughout my life and has formed the central theme of most of my horror fiction.
2. What is the scariest story you have ever written?
I don’t know what story readers might find scariest, but the story that scared me the most did so for a reason you might not expect. In the early nineties, I’d only published a handful of stories in small-press magazines. I was working on a story called “Mr. Punch” that I planned to submit to an anthology called Young Blood, which would feature stories written by authors younger than thirty. Up to this point, the horror I’d written was fairly run of the mill, but I had a different vision for this story. I wanted to write a horror story that used nightmarish, surreal imagery that (I hoped) would have a greater impact on readers than anything I’d done before. When I got two-thirds of the way through the story, I realized it was the best thing I’d written to that point, and I got scared that if I kept going, I’d screw it up. I stopped writing, but after a while, I forced myself to go back and finish it. I sold the story to Young Blood. It was my first professional sale, and Ellen Datlow gave the story an Honorable Mention in that year’s edition of Best Fantasy and Horror. Most importantly, “Mr. Punch” is where I found my voice as a writer, and if I hadn’t overcome my fear, that might never have happened.
3. Do you recall the first story you ever wrote?
The very first story I remember writing is a cartoon version of King Kong vs Godzilla. I’d seen photos from the film in Famous Monsters magazine, but I hadn’t seen the movie. I took a stenographer’s pad, turned it sideways, and drew what I imagined the movie might be like. In a sense, it was my first (unofficial) tie-in story!
4. Do you recall the first book you ever read that made you want to become a writer?
I don’t know if any book did that for me, but an article did. When I was in high school, I read an interview with Stephen King in an issue of the B&W comic magazine Dracula Lives. The Shining had just come out, and King wasn’t super-famous yet. It might have been the first interview with a writer I ever read, and before this, it had never really occurred to me that being a writer was something a person could choose. Something I could choose. I later told my mom that I thought I might like to be a writer, and she said, “I think you’d be a good one.” Her simple encouragement meant the world to me, and it still does.
5. Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?
I know this sounds like a cop-out, but all of my characters are drawn from aspects of myself, so I can relate to all of them. But many of my characters find themselves caught in a world that’s weirder and more dangerous than they imagined, and they struggle to understand it and, if possible, find a place in it. That’s pretty much my experience of life, too, so I’d say that type of Tim Waggoner character is most like me, and therefore, the one I can relate to the most.
6. Describe what your ideal writing space looks like?
I can write anywhere. All I need is someplace to sit and my laptop or a notebook. I do a lot of my writing in Starbucks cafes. I like having a certain amount of noise and activity going on around me as I write – not too much – but enough so that part of my brain is constantly stimulated while another part produces prose. I’m not sure why this helps me, but it does. Or maybe it’s just the caffeine.
7. What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
I can’t remember if I researched this for a book or I just heard about it and got curious, but I learned that some people have a fetish where they like to read about people being boiled alive. I found website dedicated to fiction in which people – usually women – would be boiled alive and were turned on by the process and the knowledge that their flesh would be eaten. The site’s owner also offered to write boiled-alive stories featuring celebrities that readers chose. I’m very much a consenting adult can do whatever they want kind of guy, but the psychology behind this fetish fascinated me. I’ve never found the right opportunity to use this knowledge in a story, but it’s still in the back of my mind, waiting for the right story to come along.
8. How has Lawrence Block influenced you as a writer? Did you watch the film-adaptation of his novel A Walk among The Tombstones?
I first became familiar with Lawrence Block through his fiction-writing columns in Writers Digest. I then bought his books on writing and devoured those. I learned more about writing fiction from Block than I ever did from a teacher in class. He offers solid, non-nonsense advice about the craft that is never too prescriptive. His approach has also helped me become a better teacher of writing. After a time, I decided I should read Block’s fiction to see if he practiced what he preached, and he definitely did. He became one of my favorite novelists, regardless of genre, after that. I named the zombie PI protagonist in my Nekropolis urban fantasy novels after Block’s detective character Matt Scudder. I haven’t seen the film version of A Walk Among the Tombstones yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Liam Neeson seems like a perfect choice to play Scudder.
9. Reading from your blog post about your experience writing Kingsman: The Golden Circle (http://writinginthedarktw.blogspot.com/2017/09/kingsman-golden-circle.html), what did you wish you knew when you started writing media tie-in books? How did your experience help you now and in the future?
I wish I’d understood the glacial pace the approval process takes and the insane lightning-fast pace you have to write once an outline is approved in order to make a deadline. For example, years ago I wrote a tie-in novel featuring Freddie Krueger called A Nightmare on Elm Street: Protégé. My original pitch was that Freddie has accidentally returned to life as a human and another force takes his place in the dream realm. The editor loved it and sent the outline to Newline for approval. The approval process took so long that, in order to make the deadline, the editor told me to start writing. I wrote sixty pages before the studio killed the idea, saying they didn’t want Freddie to return to life because that would raise the specter of Freddie having been a child molester/murderer when he was alive and they didn’t want to deal with that issue. I had to come up with an entirely new plot ASAP, and once it was approved, I had to write very fast in order to hit the deadline. Now I know not to write a single word of an actual tie-in novel until the final outline approval comes through, even if that means the publisher will have to reschedule the book’s release.
10. Did you do a book tour for Kingsman: The Golden Circle? If so, where was the furthest you traveled for it or any book tour in general?
I’ve never been on a book tour. In general, publishers usually send their best-selling/highest-profile authors on tours. The whole point of book tours isn’t for authors to sell books and meet readers. It’s to get media coverage of their visit. This coverage reaches far more people than authors actually meet on tour, which hopefully translates into more sales. I think social media has taken the place of tours, especially for midlist, small-press, and indie authors. Social media allows authors to engage with readers directly and has the potential to increase sales in a more cost-effective way than a tour.
11. What marketing strategies do you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors?
It’s difficult to say if any marketing strategies have any real impact for individual authors, but we still have to try. I think social media can work well if you can be authentic, provide interesting content, and don’t overwhelm your audience with constant sales messages. Interacting directly with your audience on a regular basis is important. Promoting and celebrating other writers – being part of a literary community – is a vital part of marketing in that it helps build your support network and makes you seem less like a totally self-involved marketer of your own work. A blog can help, too. My blog, Writing in the Dark, provides tips and insights for writers. It’s an outgrowth of my teaching career, but it also works to promote my own writing. I have a newsletter that I send out once a month, and along with the sales messages, I give writing tips and a list of favorite movies or books. A resource I always recommend is Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Levinson, Frishman, Larsen, and Hancock. There’s a ton of great advice in the book.
Guerilla Marketing for Writers: https://www.amazon.com/Guerrilla-Marketing-Writers-Low-Cost-Guerilla/dp/1600376606/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544033553&sr=8-1&keywords=guerilla+marketing+for+writers
12. Do you have any fun, interesting fact to tell when or after writing Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, or Supernatural series?
The movie before Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ended on a huge cliffhanger: Alice and her companions were preparing to battle a horde of zombies and mutants in Washington, DC. The Final Chapter begins with that battle already over and Alice is the sole survivor. All of her companions, including the young girl she unofficially adopted in the previous movie, are never mentioned. This is the kind of thing I hate as an audience member, so I decided to write the battle that occurred off-screen, and hope the studio wouldn’t cut it from the finished novel. The battle turned out to be several chapters long, but the studio let me keep it in. In fact, they let me keep everything I added to the script – including my tying the book into previous novelizations in the series. I’m so grateful they gave me that artistic freedom. It’s rare in novelizations.
13. Silly-Game question: From Kingsman: The Golden Circle novel, could you please leaf through the pages and point at a random place. What is the full sentence? And what is the page number of this random sentence?
Pg. 121: But before the man could pull his half-eaten feet out of the tank, Charlie’s robot hand – moving faster than any human eye could track – took hold of Angel’s neck and gave it a swift, savage twist.
14. Which movie would you like to do a novelization to and why?
I love the old Universal horror films of the 1930’s-40’s, and I think it would be amazing to adapt one of them as a novel. Frankenstein vs the Wolfman was the first one of these I saw. I was four at the time, and the idea that these two monsters inhabited the same world, could meet and interact, fascinated me. So I guess I’d pick that film.
15. Which of your short stories, novella, and novels would you like to see made into a film?
I think the Nekropolis series would make fun films, and my Bram Stoker Award-winning novella The Winter Box is one of the best things I’ve written, and it would make a wonderfully bizarre film. My novel The Teeth of the Sea would make a great creature-feature movie. Although I’d honestly be happy if anything of mine was adapted for film. I’d love to see how a director and actors would interpret one of my stories.
16. Have you ever considered writing a screenplay?
I’ve toyed with the idea on and off over the years. I wrote a couple plays in college and even directed one, and I enjoyed the experience, but a script isn’t a thing in and of itself: it’s a blueprint for a performance. It’s only one aspect of a larger creative process. Writing fiction is a deeper, more complete experience for me, and I have complete creative control. I think the highly collaborative nature of scriptwriting – one in which the screenwriter is often on the bottom rung of the ladder – would drive me crazy.
17. Would you considered an aspiring author to write a media-in novel or be a published author first before taking that route?
It’s almost impossible to get started writing tie-in fiction if you haven’t written and published your own original fiction first. You need to have a track record as an author before a publisher will hire you to write a tie-in novel. Publishers need to know that you can write successfully at novel length and that you can write to deadline. They also need to know that you can work well with editors, since tie-in fiction has to hew closely to the established universe and rules of the original IP and editors have to make sure this happens. Publishers also need to know that you’re open to revising and can revise successfully, since the IP rights holder will review a tie-in project and require changes. The only way publishers can be sure if writers have the necessary skills and experience to write a tie-in is if they’ve already proven themselves as published authors.
18. Can you inform us about your latest story?
Right now I’m working on a tie-in novel set in the Alien universe called Alien: Prototype. It deals with a former space marine who’s training a security force for a corporation that’s a rival of Weyland-Yutani’s, and of course an alien infestation breaks out in the training facility. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing it.
19. What is your favorite joke?
Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: The fish.
20. Last question, what is your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant?
Saag paneer and chicken tikka masala (with rice and naan) at my Amar India Restaurant in Dayton, Ohio.
You all should, no question, check out those valuable links that Mr. Tim Waggnoer offered, especially if you want to know more about his novels/novellas/short stories. My sincere appreciation for him in regard to answering my questions and for his time. His insight was informative and will probably help other writers in their writing journey. Thank you for stopping by to read this latest blog interview. I hope you visit here again. Take care and happy reading.