Q1. Welcome back, Chad! It’s been a few years since your 2017 interview with us. Firstly, in a few sentences, kindly outline the plot for The Child At The End Of Time.
The whole concept was born from my love for a particular Stephen King cover concept and an anthology centered around the theme of mad science gone wrong. A scientist is responsible for creating a link to another universe which leads to the planet falling under attack by an alien race. The protagonists of the story are thrust into a dangerous landscape following this event, struggling together to survive. And as they try to find safety, the planet is literally crumbling around them as the world itself becomes infected from the alien presence. Sort of like the effect we saw in War of the Worlds, but in reverse.
Q2. Remember our review of your short-story collection, Two Bells At Dawn. In my video review of The Child At The End Of Time, I mentioned how only a handful of authors are able to keep both their short-form and long-length work multi-layered. What’s your take on this?
Well, short and long form are different disciplines and require a different skill set. Many people have the mistaken impression that short stories are kind of like training pants for novelists and nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s very difficult to distill a story with all the required elements down to such a short length. Obviously I try to do as well as I can with both formats and if you think I have done so, that’s great to hear.
I think at the heart of any narrative, regardless of the length, is about crafting storylines and characters for the reader to connect with. If the people you are reading about aren’t comfortable or relatable, the story itself is going to feel flat. I like to think of writing along the same lines as cooking, my other passion. It’s all about building with the right material. If you’re using bland ingredients, it doesn’t matter how skilled of a chef you are – your food is going to be bland.
Q3. Any advice for aspiring novelists – especially those that launch their careers by writing/publishing short stories?
I started my career with two short story collections and I really wish I hadn’t done that. The reality is that short stories aren’t particularly popular and you really need to have more of an established fan base. Readers are a lot less likely to take the plunge on short stories from an unknown author, at least in my experience and observation. Even seven years or so later, my collections are my least popular books.
The tried method and probably still the best would be to go a more traditional route of placing stories in anthologies and magazines. The important thing to keep in mind though is to remember that this will necessarily mean putting up with a lot of rejection. More stories are going to be turned away than accepted. You’re going to need some thick skin and some good personal resolve. It isn’t a reflection on you, it just means you didn’t connect with that editor. Keep at it.
And it’s also key to remember that with submitting, you need to do some work to make sure you’re submitting to the right publishers. Don’t just go for the easy acceptances, even though that does feel good. Just because an anthology is easier to get in to, it doesn’t mean it’s going to do as well for you. It may be more stressful and emotionally risky to attempt at a more prestigious and difficult market, but those are the books that are going to bring in readers. It does you no good to get a story placed in an anthology that was easy for you but only ten people buy the book and less than half of those even read it. If the publisher isn’t investing in their book, you probably shouldn’t do it either.
Honestly, with horror, novellas seem to be the happy medium between short stories and full-length novels. They have the attraction of being a full-length narrative without as much risk or commitment from the reader. And because they require less time to write, it’s easier to get more titles out into the market. If I were to suggest starting anywhere, I think the novella would be the way to go. It really is an awesome format for the horror genre in particular.
Ultimately, though, I think the important thing to remember is that succeeding in publishing is extremely difficult and rare. Hundreds, if not thousands of books are published from week to week so it’s important to be realistic with your expectations and goals. There is a lot of this that’s up to chance so you should always suspect anyone who claims to have the roadmap to success. As much as I would like it to be the case, publishing is simply not a meritocracy. At the heart of it, you need to have that love for storytelling because there are going to be a lot of times when that’s all you have.
Q4. If you could pick 3 famous filmmakers who’d adapt The Child… for the big screen, who’d you select?
That’s a great question. And since this is so hypothetical I would say that if I could have my way, I’d hop into my time machine, head for the eighties and bring back either Clive Barker or John Carpenter. May sound silly since both are obviously still with us but I think around the time when they were gifting us with films like Hellraiser and The Thing would have been the right time for them to take on a book like this.
If you’re looking for a more mainstream – reality based answer, Spielberg comes to mind, specifically the dark turn he took with War of the Worlds. I think David Fincher would also do a great job. And I’ll go with Paul W.S. Anderson. Event Horizon is a favorite film of mine and a vibe I think would work great with this book.
Q5. What stories are in the pipeline at the moment?
Truth be told, the pipeline is a bit clogged and that’s my fault. But at this point I have two projects that are in a state of consistent forward motion.
The first is actually a pair of novellas that will be published together. They both center around the Bermuda Triangle, specifically an island that doesn’t appear on any maps. The mythology surrounding the Bermuda Triangle is one that has always fascinated me and this was pretty fun to write.
I’m also working on my first full length novel since my post-apocalyptic book from 2016, Behind Our Walls. This new project doesn’t have a name but I can tell you it’s a zombie novel. I’m not going to claim to strike out into never before seen territory in the genre but I’m pretty happy with what’s been getting down on paper.
The Bermuda book is much farther along but I can’t see either book seeing the light of day this year. Hopefully some time in 2022, depending on whether or not I find a publisher or if I publish it myself under my own imprint – Darker Worlds Publishing.
I’m also working on a collection of short stories, a novella loosely inspired by Stephen King’s book, The Body (Stand by Me) as well as a YA book I have done a rough draft on – inspired by The Three Investigators book series. All of these are super early in the process.
Chad A. Clarke:
Nisar Masoom (Know Thy Future):