This interview was originally posted at Spring Reads, Thanks Nylah!
1). What was the process like for writing Hellfire and Damnation III? How long did it take?
Writing H&D III took longer than writing either I or II because I was (also) writing the novel series “The Color of Evil” (www.TheColorOfEvil.com) and the children’s illustrated series “The Xmas Cats” (www.TheXmasCats.com) at the same time. The first book’s stories I had been collecting for who-knows-how-long? Sam’s Dot published it, but it had a really bad cover. The re-issue of “Hellfire & Damnation” (I) was on Jan. 9, 2011 by the Merry Blacksmith Press. H&D II came out July 28, 2012, so it was roughly a year and a half between H&D I and H&D II, during which time I was (also) writing other things, including “Laughing through Life,” a collection of previously-published (in newspapers) humorous essays and the first of the Xmas Cats books (“The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats”, www.TheXmasCats.com).
H&D III went up on Amazon on January 19, 2015, so you can see that the span between H&D II to H&D III was more like 3 years, versus 1 and 1/2 between I and II. Why is that? Possibly because during that time I was writing a lot of other things and also working for Yahoo covering film and politics.
2). Can you briefly summarise the series in 8 words?
Scary stories touring the 9 Circles of Hell.
3). The cover is amazingly thrilling! Did you have any involvement with the final design?
I’ve always had a great deal of involvement with the cover design(s). When I wrote H&D II, I had a vision of “the frozen dead guy” on the cover, which I conveyed to Vinny, who executed it brilliantly. Vincent Chong did the covers of both H&D II and H&D III and also designed the cover for “Khaki=Killer,” (www.KhakiEqualsKiller.com) the 3rd novel in my “The Color of Evil” novel series. Vincent is a UK artist who has done covers for the likes of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, but still takes the time to read every word of my book(s) before we collaborate on the cover image. For instance, with this one, we discussed the wisdom of using a giant spider, but Vinny felt it would be better and more coherent to use a male image, as has been done on all three books. It’s hard to argue with an artist of his stature who was Winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist (2013), a 5-time recipient of the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist, and on short lists for the Hugo Award and the Best Science Fiction Association “Best Artist” Award. Quite simply,
Vinny is a dream to work with, and his thoughts are always right on target. But I contribute a great deal to the final image. In the case of the blue coffin cover, that image was stuck in my head, and it was just a matter of trying to describe exactly what I saw in my mind to Vinny, who executed it with his usual professionalism. In the case of this cover, Vinny contributed the alchemist’s symbols on the wall behind the crazed Messianic minister with the axe, but I wanted flames and the cleric’s collar and I could “see” what his face might look like, in my mind’s eye.
4). List 3 facts about yourself that no one knows/
I’m not sure there is ANYTHING that “no one” knows, but here are 3 little-known facts to readers who only read the stories: (a) I have 2 children, born 19 years apart. (b) I have been CEO of 3 companies which I founded. (c) I play 5 musical instruments—2 of them well.
5). This is a phenomenal series comprised of short stories. Was the evolution from writing short stories to novels a large and hard one, or was it no different?
Thank you for the compliment. I hope other readers share your enthusiasm for the stories. I set out in my “long” writing life (i.e., books) in 2003 to write “one of everything” with the exception of romance novels and erotica (No “Fifty Shades of Grey” for me.) My first book (1989) was a scholarly tome with MLB footnotes written while in the full-time employ of an East coast teacher training firm as an educational writer; it’s about successful teaching. Then, I wrote a compilation of things that I had previously published, which is difficult to categorize as humor—although some of it was—or poetry (again, some of it was).
After that, I was hired to write the “Ghostly Tales of Route66” books, which will hit eleven in number by the time I’m done breaking the route down state by state. I wrote a science fiction novel for Lachesis and followed that up with a non-fiction book on movies of the seventies (“It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now”, www.ItCamefromTheSeventies.com) which The Merry Blacksmith also published.
After that, I started in with my own novel series (“The Color of Evil;” “Red Is for Rage;” and “Khaki=Killer”) and the Xmas Cats series for the granddaughters. The “Hellfire & Damnation” organizing principle of using Dante’s “Inferno” came to me while I was (briefly) a member of HWA, but the stories aren’t really horror—they’re thrillers and often true crime ones, at that. So, now I’m a member of ITW (International Thriller Writers).
I enjoy writing “short” because that’s where I started—writing for 5 different newspapers in various capacities. I’ve been a film and book critic, interviewed celebrities, and written feature stories. I’ve also done 2 books of humor and the scary stuff that I think of as more “suspenseful thriller” material than as pure horror.
I’m probably going to put out a nonfiction book on the 2008 presidential campaign, which I covered for Yahoo, next. I have over 1,000 articles that garnered over 3 million hits, many pictures, and the rights reverted to me in July.
And, of course, there is the prospect of a Book #4 in “The Color of Evil” (www.TheColorOfEvil.com) series, which is tentatively titled “Scarlet Summer.” I know that my mentor, William F. Nolan, a Living Legend in Dark Fantasy, whose 87th birthday is March 6th, enjoys writing short stories, and I’m with him on that. But I wanted to prove I could write “one of everything” and I’ve got literary fiction and a mystery to go, after I finish the 2 projects just mentioned.
And, of course, I will have a new Xmas Cats books by Christmas for Ava and Elise, the granddaughters.
6). How does a writing day for you go/what’s your routine for writing?
I’m with Anne Rice, who is a streak writer. I go to Chicago and hole up to write anything lengthy. I don’t come out until I see my shadow or it stops snowing, whichever comes first. (written in winter, obviously, with tongue in cheek.) I don’t sit down in one place at a certain time and I don’t count how many words I’ve written that day or the next. It’s probably why I’m only getting 4 books a year written (and have only had 3 out since Christmas). Today, for instance, we went to see “Whiplash” (my second viewing), had dinner, came home, the husband is taking a nap, and I’m writing this, which will be followed by a couple of blog posts. And so it goes.
7). Connie, lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I say this all the time, but it still holds true: learn the basics. It’s no different than a basketball or football coach stressing the basics of running and passing and blocking and dribbling (to mix sports terms) to his team members. Learn grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.. Then branch out to trying to tell a story with the most sincere voice within you.
And don’t give up your day job.