Spoiler alert: Simon Strantzas prefers apple fritters *shakes head*. But as he is a fellow Tartarus Press author, and a damned awesome one at that, he is forgiven. Cold to the Touch has received critical acclaim and Strantzas has been feted thusly:
“[Simon Strantzas has] inherited the mantle of Robert Aickman in terms of subtle and enigmatic disquiet.”
— Ramsey Campbell
“…an expert in urban ennui.”
— Ellen Datlow
“Strantzas deftly establishes ordinary and seemingly innocuous situations that spin out of the characters’ control and always end with an uneasy sense of menace, even when their resolution is ambiguous or cryptic.”
— Publishers Weekly
His debut collection, Beneath the Surface, was reprinted by Dark Regions Press in 2010. You should seek him out … or rather, his work, for anything else may count as stalking.
1. What is essential to a truly awesome horror story?
I think your question itself states the most important ingredient: awe. It’s a controversial stance, but one I must take and stand behind. There are plenty of tales that purport to be “horror” stories, tales that are primarily concerned with matters of the flesh (and the rending thereof) but I find these stories fail to elicit more than a momentary visceral response. They have no true “sticking” power. In many ways, it’s because their scope, their vision is too small. To truly achieve the sort of horror I enjoy experiencing, a work must dig deeper into my being and take root, and the easiest path to this is awe. The writer should endeavour to make his or her story awful (that is, full of awe) as there is poetry in this when done well. Most of the true masters of the genre realise this, and take their aim at destroying the world you know not in their fiction, but in your real-life experience. Without awe, in most cases you’ve little but a campfire tale.
2. You get to be any fictional character for a day – who do you choose, where do you go, what do you do and who do you choose as your companion?
Steve Threefall, hero of Hammett’s “Nightmare Town”. And where else would I go but that crooked place to teach them all a lesson? I wouldn’t need anyone or anything but my black stick at my side, and nothing more than a reason to use it. Or perhaps I’d be Parker. It’s so hard to choose some days.
3. Have you ever vowed never to write again? What happened?
I’ve never sworn off writing, but there have been plenty of times I’ve felt that there will one day be a limit to what I can bring to the table. Writers like T.E.D. Klein or Terry Lamsley, they’ve virtually disappeared for one reason or another, and I find myself wondering if one day I might be the same. Perhaps I’ll find one day nothing else to write about, or at least no driving interest to do so, and I’ll put down my notebook and surrender to whatever it is people who don’t write do all day. Perhaps I’ll read, as there doesn’t seem to be enough time left in my life to finish all the books I’d like to. That said, whenever I find myself feeling this way, my muse hands me another idea and insists I complete it. At the end of the day, she’s the one who decides my fate, and I know better than disobey.
4. Edgar Allan Poe -v- HP Lovecraft: discuss.
Ah, the eternal question: which of horror’s fathers is more important, more of an influence? I find it striking Poe and Lovecraft were so similar. Perhaps it’s the water in New England that makes horror writers. Another major influence on the genre does hail from Maine, after all. I see no reason to pit Edgars against Howards — to this mind they have both earned their place. For me, Lovecraft might be a more direct influence on my work, as his fiction often strived for the sense of cosmic awe I discussed previously, but Poe’s nightmarish studies in atmosphere continue to haunt the nethers of my imagination. I could no more choose between then than a child could his parents.
5. Donuts (or doughnuts) or danishes?
I suppose doughnuts, though in honesty I’m partial to apple fritters.
He blogs here.