Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Q&A with Joe Schreiber

I used to think of him as one of the great new voices, bu you can't call Joe Schreiber a new horror writer any more. He has four novels under his belt, with another on the way. He is perhaps best known for his Star Wars novel Death Troopers in which dark things happen upon an abandoned Star Destroyer. My favorite is probably No Doors, No Windows, a story about a very nasty haunted house. In his responses below, Schreiber hints that King is his greatest influence. His novels remind me of the early King novels with their flawed characters, excellent use of the supernatural and flat out creepiness. You can follow him at his blog The Scary Parent.

1) What do you think makes the difference between a good horror novel and a bad one?

The same thing that differentiates any novel, I think: the characters and quality of writing. Losing yourself in a work of fiction -- any work of fiction -- requires a certain degree of confidence in the writer. As a reader, you can usually tell in just a few pages whether you trust the guy in the driver's seat, or whether you'd rather get out and walk. At least I can.


2) Your books consistently evoke feelings of dread and fear in me. I particularly like how sometimes you merely suggest what a character sees, letting the imagination fill in the details. How do you decide when it is best to suggest and when it is best to explicitly describe what is happening?

When in doubt, leave it out. Seriously. If you've done your job developing the tension and atmosphere along the way, you can absolutely step out of the way of your own prose and let the reader's imagination do the heavy lifting. It's the most powerful tool in the horror writer's toolbox -- it's working even when the reader's not actively reading the book.

3) Your Star Wars novel, Death Troopers, blends elements of the science fiction and horror genres. Did the science fiction setting lead you to write this book differently than you did your other novels?

Not really. If anything, I had to resist the temptation to "write different" and focus on getting myself involved in the story. As soon as I was there onboard the Destroyer with my characters, I relaxed, because I was having fun.

4) Eat the Dark is set in a hospital, a setting you are familiar with thanks to your work as an MRI technician. Does personal experience inform any of your other novels?

My first horror novel, Chasing the Dead, was based on some very uncomfortable days as a 30-something dad returning to school so I could support my new family. I got up very early in the morning, when it was still dark and cold, and drove a half-hour to radiography school and work, and drove home in the dark sixteen hours later. If a cold dead hand had reached up from the back seat of my Olds 88 at any time while that was going on, it would have made perfect sense, in a horrible sort of way.

5) What would you say is your favorite book and how, if at all, has it influenced how or what you write?

It's probably safe to say that, without Stephen King's The Shining, I would probably be writing greeting cards, if anything.

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