The Horror Club chats to author Steve Stred about his work, including his latest release, The Future in the Sky, being a book reviewer, bringing real life situations into his work, among other things.
Hi Steve, thanks for having a chat with me! Can you give a short introduction to yourself?
Thanks so much for having me! For those who don’t know, my name is Steve Stred and I’m a dark fiction writer who lives in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. I’m also an avid reader and reviewer. When not in the book world, I live a really fun life with my wife, son and our dog!
What attracted you to writing horror?
I’ve always been a big fan of the darker things in life, from a very young age. Watching horror and science fiction movies were a big part of my youth, but even some of the main cartoons I watched had darker elements, like He-Man and Thunder Cats. So, in high school, when I started exploring creative writing and poetry, my works always went to the darker areas.
Why do you think there is such high appeal for it?
I think a lot of it is escape-ism and the knowledge that what’s happening in the book or movie will most likely not happen to you. Being in a safe place/safe space allows the reader to enjoy the spike of adrenaline, the tingle at the back of the neck, knowing that if it becomes too much they can close the book and turn on the lights.
Horror is meant to scare us. Why do you think people like to be scared?
Very similar to the previous answer. Escape-ism. The ability to enter a situation you’d most likely never experience otherwise and be able to see how things turn out – good or bad – and get those moments where the heart beats faster and your breathing increases.
When writing any form, be it a novel, short story, poem, film etc, we look for real life events for inspiration. Why do you think that is?
I’d say it has to do with familiarity and grounding. Of a shared knowledge. More people have experienced, let’s say a power outage in their life than being attacked by a big shark. So, if you start off a story with two people, stuck in a house and the power goes out, we all wince and know how unsettling that is. Add in the sound of someone walking upstairs when no one else should be there and voila, you’ve tapped into a shared fear. Saying that – a book or movie about a big shark is still a shared ‘fear’ and can absolutely be grounded in real life events, just most of us haven’t had a face to face with that predator!
Have you ever done it?
Oh, absolutely. Everything I’ve released has a setting/place I’ve been or has a character based on someone I know, whether they know it or not. For me, it allows me to cinematically see the space and let me try and create that world in words on the page.
You have several books released, from novels to novellas to collections. How do you stay motivated to keep creating and releasing new work?
I’ve always been very vocal about my desire to write because I have stories in my head and I want to release them. I’ve never written anything for anyone else or with the expectation of a sale. If I had zero readers, I’d still go through the process and release what I’d written, so that I could see these stories off. Saying that, I am greatly thankful that there is a group of folks who really do seem to enjoy what I do. Incredibly humbling. I also work hard to set an example for my son. My two first releases arrived right around when he was going to be born, so it gives me pride to be able to show him my books and say “look at what’s possible.”
Specifically, what keeps me motivated is that I love creating new worlds and new characters and seeing just where my brain takes them and what’ll happen to them.
Has there ever been a point where you haven’t been motivated?
Typically, the week after I’ve finished a novel/novella/collection (as in all the edits are done, it just needs to be loaded for release) I’m pretty blah. I still work on things and move onto a different work in progress, but for the most part, I’m a bit deflated and need a few days to really clear the fog of combining everything together in preparation for it to go out into the world.
You review books also. How did you start, and why did you decide to start?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, starting way back in my childhood. Hardy Boys and Archie Comics. When I discovered Stephen King, that’s when I really searched out darker works, things that scared me. Reviewing was never something I set out to do, or at least in the way I’m now doing it. With how much I read, I of course was going to leave a rating or a few words about why I loved a book, but after connecting with Gavin Kendall (of Kendall Reviews) he said he was always looking for content and invited me to start sending him reviews, from there it’s grown into an amazing friendship and I’ll often contribute reviews, interviews, non-fiction articles and even exclusive/free stories. As for my own page – or reviews I post on my site, there’s usually random reasons why they’ll end up there instead of on Kendall Reviews. Sometimes it might be timing – I want to get a review out ASAP, or it’s a book that doesn’t fit into the Kendall Reviews framework of genres etc. But probably 90% of my reviews will be sent to Gavin.
How has reading and reviewing books helped you with your own work?
I’d say it’s helped in a few ways. I read so many different books by (and no offense meant to anyone) authors of all different levels of popularity. So, it’s great to see how different people approach similar themes. It also gives me motivation to see so many people go-for-it. To put their thoughts down and craft a story, their story, is always motivating, so it gets me motivated to write.
It seems like a very popular and great community to be part of. Why do you think people start a book blog?
I think the majority of people start their own blog to share their love and passion of books or a specific author. It can be very intimidating at first to reach out and inquire about joining a page or working with someone, so for a lot of people the easiest way to start sharing their thoughts is to just start up a page!
Any tips for starting one?
Hmmm, great question. I’d offer two tips to help or aide (keeping in mind I am far from an expert!). The first would be – be realistic with your time and expectations. Kendall Reviews has a half dozen people who submit reviews, as well as guest posts and interviews etc. So, don’t base what you can do with what others are doing. If you can only post one review a week or every few weeks, or whatever, then embrace that and don’t stress if life takes over and you can’t get that done. The second would be – make sure you are having fun. Similar to the first tip, but make sure that hosting a blog or posting reviews doesn’t stress you out or bring you down or take away all your free time with your loved ones. 99% of bloggers/reviewers do this for free and many have found a balance that works for them. So, find your balance and do what works for you.
You seem to be very vocal about your admiration for Andrew Pyper and his work. Has it had any influence on your work?
I have? Hmmm, can’t say that I know who that is! Haha! I kid. Yes, I absolutely love Pyper’s work. I see people constantly raving about King or Hill or Barker etc, so I decided I should be as vocal about my favorite authors work as other people are.
As for influencing – absolutely. Pyper is on a completely different plain than I am for writing and readership, but even being a bestseller, he’s still willing to go dark, brutal and loves to add in heaps of gore. His writing has shown me that bringing the setting to life is always key, that no matter how dark a book is, emotions will always play a role and that it is ok to be proud to be Canadian and to feature Canadian content in a release.
Your latest book, The Future in the Sky, released this week on March 1st. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Yes it does! This one’s a novella that came to me in a dream. Usually my dreams are incredibly post-apocalyptic. They have been since I was in my teens. World on fire, animals attacking, I’m trying to survive. But this one was different. It was so vivid, that when I woke up I immediately messaged two fellow writers to see if they wanted to collaborate on it. Both loved the idea but neither felt like it was in their wheel house, so I went in alone.
The story follows Lizzie, who lives on a revolving ship orbiting our planet. Some years back, the Earth was decimated, with only a number of survivors brought onto the ship. Throughout the years on the ship, randomly, classes of students are selected for Salvation or Eradication. If they are chosen for Salvation, they get to jump from the ship into outer space. In the free fall towards the planet, orbs float towards them. They need to then catch their specific orb which will then transport them to the future they should’ve always had.
Why did you decide to dip into science fiction?
I’ve written a number of sci-fi pieces before and always love the genre. ‘Jane: the 816 Chronicles’ and ‘Wound Upon Wound’ are two novellas I’ve released that are firmly in the sci-fi realm, and a few of my short stories (Head Case being the most commonly cited), but it was immediately evident that this would be a dark sci-fi story and when I mapped out what was going to happen, I also realized that the story couldn’t be contained in a single snapshot, hence the series aspect.
It is book 1 of The Empyrean Saga. Can you tell us about the future of the series?
As I mentioned, the story couldn’t be contained in a single release. What to expect? I think the biggest issue I see with sci-fi, and I hear this frequently, is the sense that it’s very inaccessible because of the technology/terminology. I’m working hard to make this an every person’s sci-fi story, one that doesn’t use horrendously difficult words or concepts that require a Ph D to understand. There are five books total, but will be packaged as an omnibus and there will also be a poetry companion. We’ll explore more about Empyrean, Eldridge, a character from the end of book one as well as Lizzie and where they fit into the world.
What does 2021 hold for you?
More reading, more writing. I’m always working towards the next releases and the next year’s releases. I have two novellas in various stages of completion as well as two novels that need to be cleaned up and released. I’ll have a novel out that I co-authored with a fantastic writer soon as well. Always working to be better!
Purchase his latest book, The Future in the Sky, here.