Hello, Horrorview faithful and welcome! From time to time, we here at Horrorview give our eyes and ears a break from the movie screen, the surround sound, the burnt popcorn and the endless stream of slaughtered co-eds to take in a good, ol’ fashioned book. I recently had the opportunity to read a pre-release of author Jack Kilborn’s horror novel, “Afraid”. It’s being released March 31. (Check out the review HERE.)
Jack, in an effort to inform new readers (or just to prove he’s not a homicidal maniac himself) agreed to sit down in his comfy chair and answer a few questions. Read on…if you dare!
HV: Jack, first of all, welcome and thanks for taking a few minutes to hang with us here at Horrorview. Let’s dive right in to “Afraid”. “Afraid” is set in a tiny little town, aptly named Safe Haven, Wisconsin. I’ve been to Wisconsin and I was surprised that there was little mention of cheese or water parks in the novel. Did you do some traveling to research the book, either physically or using the marvel of modern technology…the Internet?
Jack: I’m from Chicago, and it’s a law that Chicagoans vacation in Wisconsin. My grandparents had a cabin way up north, on a lake. It was isolated—the nearest hospital was an eighty minute car ride. I remember thinking: if someone wanted to wipe out this town, he probably could before help came.
The novel never sits in once place at one time. In fact, this novel, more than any I’ve read, is written like a movie. At any period, there are several concurrent streams of torture, suspense and escape as the townspeople begin to realize what is loose in the town and make their attempts to stop it. Was it difficult writing in this style? Did you write one person’s series of events and then go back and splice them into the finished product?
Afraid doesn’t have any chapter breaks. It cuts from one scene to the next, like a horror movie. But most horror movies give the viewer a break. Maybe sex, or some humor, to cut the tension. I tried not to give the reader a break, and keep the suspense escalating. Switching characters, and situations, helped heighten the terror level, because while you’re reading what is happening to the current character, you’re still wondering what happened to the last character you just read about. But the novel was written in a linear way, no splicing.
Readers can relate to your characters quickly. In the space of a few paragraphs, you make a connection with people of all walks of life. You do so without ten pages of detail. Clothes aren’t described unless outfits and brand names happen to matter to that character. What are your tips or thoughts on writing quick memory hooks that stick with readers?
I try to write just enough description to allow the reader to picture the scene. Then I back off. With the reader filling in the blanks, the pace is much quicker, and it’s strangely more visual. A good book is a movie that plays in the reader’s head. A good writer should let that reader’s imagination run wild.
The devil is in the details and here at Horrorview, the devil is many of the movies we cover as well…usually in combination with virgins, stigmata or big-breasted bottle blondes. You incorporate details very well into your descriptions, whether that means the caliber of a handgun or the horsepower of an onboard motor. What’s your typical time investment when it comes to research?
Just a few words of detail are enough to paint an image, if it’s the right detail. The trick with research is to only use what is needed, and restrict the urge to put in everything. I usually do research when the need arises, to make sure the scene works.
You’ve stated in other places that you sought to make the scariest book ever. I admit that when I sat down, I wanted to be uncomfortable reading “Afraid” but not as uncomfortable as I was! There are more creative kills in the novel than in pretty much every remade slasher film combined. What was the inspiration for some of the particularly gory scenes?
To say I’m a horror fan is putting it lightly. In fact, there are several horror film references in Afraid for the true fans. Any fan of Italian gut-munchers should spot the Dr. Butcher MD nod. As for inspiration, I just tried to think of scenes, situations, and ways to die that scared me. Apparently, I’m scared by quite a few things.
This is your first stab into horror (pun intended). Unless I’m revealing the worst kept secret of all time here, why did you choose a pseudonym for this project?
It’s a different set of readers. My JA Konrath novels aren’t for sissies—there is some seriously sick stuff in those books, serial killers and gruesome deaths and torture. But there is also humor. I recently sent Afraid so some of my fans, and many couldn’t finish the book. It’s too horrifying, too unrelenting. That’s not what a JA Konrath book is. But it is what a Jack Kilborn book is.
Given the signature nature of villains, what was the reasoning behind using a handful of killers instead of one iconic bad guy? The Red-Ops team in the novel is more like The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants than Jason or Freddy. Why a group?
Different killers have different agendas. So I created commando squad made up of different psychos. It’s more fun to have a bunch of different crazies than just one.
Any reason you put the Red-Ops team together the way you did? I can understand an alpha male and a big brute, but Bernie and Taylor are just WAY out there. Was there a strategy to those characters from a tactical perspective or were you just shooting to scare the pants off your readers?
Bernie is my favorite. What a warped guy. Taylor is basically the Stranger Next Door, smart and suave with a deadly fetish or two. Overall, I was trying to have enough variety to hit on the particular type that frightens you. What’s worse, a mindless, unstoppable maniac who you can’t reason with? Someone who gets off sexually by hurting people? Someone so cold they do it for the money? What’s the worst way to die, and the worst person to do it? I tried to put a little bit of everything in there.
Without giving too much away, let’s say a few bad guys get their just desserts. I have a writer buddy of mine who once told me he knows exactly how every character he’s ever created is going to die. Do you have that same approach with your characters?
I make shit up as I go along. But as I’m making it up, I begin to get ideas of how certain characters will meet their ends. Justice should be poetic. And ugly.
You’ve always done an exceptional job at marketing outside of the box. Can you tell our readers about your March blog tour?
I’m visiting about sixty blogs during March, providing each with different content. The goal is to get the word out about Afraid. Already there’s some controversy. Many people think the book is too violent. But I think it’s a good thing that some people are repulsed by it. Different strokes for different folks. And it is just a book, after all. It’s not like I’m committing any atrocities in real life, that you know of.
After this novel, you’ve got some other releases on the schedule. Can readers expect more from Jack Kilborn in the foreseeable future?
The next Kilborn book is called Trapped. It’s a pretty intense ride. If you enjoy Afraid, Trapped will not disappoint.
As I mentioned early, I’m a big fan of horror, both on screen and in print. I’ve got over a thousand horror magazines and books, and more than two thousand movies. Classics, obscure, underground, indie, foreign—you name it, I’ve probably seen it or read it. Jack Kilborn is my chance to write the kind of horror I like: balls out, unapologetic, but with a heart and soul. I want to scare you. But when you reach the last page, I want you to have a big-ass smile on your face and an urge to tell all your friends about it. So you can expect Jack Kilborn to be around for a while…