Q&A With Ben Monroe

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Q&A With Ben Monroe

Mickey Mikkelson was kind enough to connect me with author Ben Monroe. Ben is the author of several short stories, a graphic novel and his recent release The Seething

Q: Ben would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about your recent release The Seething? Where did the idea for the novel come from?

A: My novel The Seething is a horror story about a family taking a week in a small town on a lake in the mountains of Northern California. While there, an ancient evil sort of becomes fixated on one member of the family, looking to use them to further its strange schemes.

The idea came a couple of years ago when I was hiking around a lake in the hills near my home. We’d had a few dry years, and that was a summer of drought. I returned to that trail around the lake often and over months and months watched as the water level receded. Eventually, the water was so low that the floating piers people would fish from, or dock their boats at weren’t even in the water any more. They were resting on dry earth. 

At some point as I was taking this all in, and wondering about the lake and its inhabitants, a thought popped into my head: “You know…. if there were a monster in that lake, it’d sure be a lot closer to the surface now….”

Then I started thinking about what sort of lengths a creature might go to if its ecosystem was disappearing. What might a thing do to find suitable habitation? What if some alien presence was trapped in such a place, and how might it get out?

So I started writing the book to find out. Over the course of writing it, the story veered a little from that original concept. But the bones remain.

Q: What made you choose to write in the horror genre? Who are your favorite horror authors?

A: I’ve always loved horror stories, from as long as I can remember. I grew up watching the classics (and some lamentably terrible not-so-classics) on local late-night TV, and devoured all the horror fiction I could get my hands on. I was fortunate enough to have access to good libraries, and great genre-focused book stores when I was younger.

The first few horror stories which really blew my mind came in rapid succession. I read John Campbell “Who Goes There?” and Robert Abernathy’s “The Rotifers” in a Scholastic paperback collection. It was a book called “Starstreak: Stories of Space!” but those two were really full-on horror. Shortly after that, in another Scholastic publication I read my first Lovecraft tale, “The Outsider.” My main memory of that reading was getting to the end of the story, being completely confused by it, and then “getting it” later that night during dinner, running up to my room and reading it all over again.

I guess I’ve been chasing that high ever since. A well-told horror story is just a marvelous thing to read. And to write, of course. I suppose when I started writing, horror was the obvious choice for me, as I tried to recreate that feeling of exquisite dread I first experienced those many years ago.

Favorite horror authors is an interesting question. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite is, I always warn them that my list could change completely ten minutes later. However, these are some authors who’ve stood the test of time for me, and who I’ve gone back and reread a lot of their work: H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Poppy Z. Brite, Dennis Etchison, Kathe Koja, Clive Barker, and M.R. James.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to write horror?

A: Horror is not a very respected genre. Outside of the horror community, that is.  If you’re choosing to write horror, be aware that other people (including other authors) who don’t know horror will very likely look down on you. This is sadly based on what I’ve found is often a very narrow view of what horror can be, and the types of stories we can tell in this style.

But, you’ll also find an amazing community of authors and fans in horror. Some of the warmest, kindest, most accepting people I’ve ever met are within the horror community. I can’t tell you how many close friends I’ve made just in the last few years after I started writing, joined the Horror Writers Association, and began to interact with the horror community.

Q: Are you currently writing your next horror book? If so, is it a sequel to The Seething or is it a standalone?

A: I’m currently working on a new book that doesn’t really have anything to do with The Seething. It’s more about my lifelong interest in mythology and folklore, and the relationship we have with such things in the modern world. All through the lens of a horror story. I’ve referred to it as “The place where Joseph Campbell and John Carpenter meet.”

As envisioned, The Seething was meant to be a stand-alone story. That being said, most of my work over the past few years has taken place in a setting I’ve been developing. A city and a few towns and other places all set in Northern California. All of these places (Alcosta, Golden Oaks, Oro Lake, etc.) are complete figments of my imagination, but also inspired by real places I’ve been (if you read The Seething and happen to drive through the California cities of Lockeford and Jackson, you’ll note some similarities). So there are often threads which connect one story to another tangentially (EG: a specific restaurant, or a nod to an event mentioned in another story), but so far, and for the most part, that’s the only connection.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? The entertainment industry needs original content again. I’m tired of seeing remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and spin offs of everything. 

A: Not yet! I’d love to see a film or show based on The Seething some day. I majored in Film in college, and have always loved movies. Honestly, when I’m writing, I think I very often think in cinematic terms (my emphasis was in Directing and Screenwriting, so I studied the screenplay form a lot). I don’t think I was consciously doing it when I initially wrote the book, but when I was rereading it (many times….) during the editing stage, I noticed that I tended to have a lot of locations to make repeat appearances. Which is a film-making trick to get the most out of your budget, by filming as much in as few locations as possible.

So, yeah, any Hollywood types reading this, check the book out, and if it strikes your fancy, hit me up.