In Today’s interview, we are talking to Kevin Candela, the author of the new horror/sci-fi anthology, A Year in the Borderlands.
What gave you the idea for your book?
Stephen King’s Night Shift, the TV series The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone and the investigative Destination America TV series Monsters and Mysteries in America. I suppose I should mention the extremely interesting and informative show The Dead Files as inspiration for Borderlands too, as the portraits of the “Other Side” that Steve, Amy and her artists paint so well are so vivid and detailed and encompassing that it almost gives a perfect picture of what we can’t see.
What got you into writing horror?
I write science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction because that’s the entertainment I’ve always loved, and the horror just naturally comes along with the territory. There’s a lot of overlap between sf/fantasy and horror, more than between almost any other genres. I’m primarily fascinated with the supernatural/paranormal, and as such I tend to go for the cerebral thrill over the visceral (unless the visceral one insists upon inclusion in the story, which happens.)
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first work—a screenplay for a sequel to Tristar’s Godzilla—in 1998-9 and had it registered with the Library of Congress until 2004. Interestingly, though no one approached me about it, a LOT of what’s in that screenplay ended up in one form or another in Godzilla 2000 (1999), Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) and even 2014’s Legendary Godzilla. I still have copies of it if anyone ever gets interested enough to read it. I keep the five main characters from the Tristar movie, set it out west in the desert and turn Godzilla from wimp to scary monster.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
The Dragon’s Game trilogy (Riot Forge 2014) features the sf/fantasy novels Mushroom Summer, The Ballad of Chalice Rayne and Dragon’s Game. It’s a broad and intense saga involving global struggles for freedom from tyranny on two different worlds, our own modern day Earth and a distant one called Gavelin where science is even more the privilege of the elite. Weedeaters: The Complete Acropalypse (Kent Hill Productions 2016) is an over-the-top action/adventure serial in six parts, five of which were featured in the JEA/KHP Straight to Video series, wherein I blend conspiratorial breakaway civilizations, faster versions of John Wyndham’s “triffids” and mutated human soldiers into a wild narrative that combines equal parts horror, action and humor. Sinbad and the Argonauts (KHP 2016) is exactly as it sounds: a mythological mash-up of the two legendary adventure sagas, inspired heavily by the movies of Ray Harryhausen but infused with more biting dialog a la Joss Whedon and company. I also compiled the anthology Sinbad and the Winds of Destiny: The First Six Voyages and More (KHP 2016), which kicks off with my “first voyage,” entitled Sinbad and the Island of Doom. In addition, my short stories appear in a number of JEA anthologies including Suburban Secrets: A Neighborhood of Nightmares, Doorway to Death, Kaiju: Lords of the Earth, Within Stranger Aeons (a Lovecraft tribute), JEAPers Creepers and Drowning in Gore, and in the Riot Forge anthology Baum Ass Stories, which I also compiled and edited.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?
I have a linear-thinking engineer’s mind, and those don’t simply go away or change when you shift from engineering to writing. So as often as not I outline before I type a word. And when I’m done, I use that outline as a guide. Yes, I often veer here and there, sometimes quite a bit, but with an outline/synopsis I know where I’m going. I tend to only work on one of my own stories at a time, but I will outline several others at once while I’m otherwise focusing on that one. I have over a dozen full length narratives backlogged right now, so for me it’s not a matter of finding subject matter: It’s a matter of finding time to write while fulfilling material world obligations, making money engraving and doing odd jobs, making money editing/formatting/assembling book covers, taking care of family members and friends who need help, mowing lawns (yes, plural, it’s that family thing), running errands, feeding pets and keeping the house running. And spending way too much time chatting on Facebook.
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?
I always go with Stranger in a Strange Land on this. My favorite writer is H.G. Wells, not Heinlein, but Robert was incredibly brilliant and a societal un-thinker who cared not one bit about the conformist ways of the mainstream. Stranger is the ultimate hippie sf book, which as I understand it ended up kind of annoying its writer when it drew peaceniks like me to sing its praises. But Michael Valentine Smith (or Valentine Michael Smith) is a REAL hero, and so is Jubal Harshaw, and the kind of thinking behind Stranger is so brilliant and daring that you STILL don’t hear anyone talk about making that classic novel into a movie.
What are you doing next?
It’s easier to just do a list:
1) Sinbad at the End of the Universe, the first sequel to Sinbad and the Argonauts, which is almost finished. The finale in my Sinbad novel trilogy, Sinbad at the Dawn of Time, will follow.
2) The Doctor is In…My Head: Warped Tales of Ether, Bats, Greed and Madness Inspired by Hunter S. Thompson. An anthology, it will feature my novella and two or three others by my fellow HST fan writers.
3) The Wondrously Embarrassing Adventures of Nakedman (novella), featuring a superhero whose powers only activate when he is completely unattired. His nemesis, Space Invader, has a bad habit of getting too close to people he’s confronting. Yeah, it’s a comedy, and I’m gonna try not to step on the toes of the amazing Mystery Men and the character Invisible Boy. Shouldn’t be tough: IB was shy, Nakedman will be more like “Just deal with it. You want your town saved or what?”
4) Little Women with Big Guns, a Buckaroo Banzai-style sf romp featuring an Old West gal, a “half ghost” scientist, an investigative reporter with a bent for conspiracies and a Martian cyborg worker bee from the near future all coming together to try to keep the dread Invisigoths and their wicked queen Nihalana from breaking through the dimensional barriers and overrunning the Earth.
5) Krakenstein vs. Koalatron, a South Park meets Pacific Rim showdown between a giant mutated man-squid and an enormous trash-eating automaton whose environmentalist appeal hides a diabolical ulterior function.
6) Blood Ridge, a gothic-style mystery/horror yarn with an Old West setting, featuring two frontier towns menaced by a mysterious force in the woodlands they border.
7) Terra Forma, a twist on the classic UFO story set in a future where Earthlings have somehow survived to terraform another world and are thus that planet’s “alien monitors.” The tale involves one surveillance crew discovering something their command center doesn’t want to hear about.
8) One by One, a murder mystery in the Agatha Christie “Ten Little Indians” vein, featuring questionable characters embroiled in mutual suspicion as they realize the kids’ bus trip song “The Ants Go Marching” is foretelling their successive demises.
9) Ghost Hunter, a suspense novel about a ghost hunting team mysteriously drawn to a remote locale by forces beyond their imagination.
10) The Piper Gods, a novel/novella series depicting the return of the children taken by the Pied Piper, not just from Hamelin but from many other villages around the world in the year 1284. Turns out the Piper took the most gifted child from each village and taught them the use of very special musical instruments, and he’s returning the kids as grownups to modern day Earth for…well, reasons that are certainly not evident at first.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
I think the smartest move I’ve made in writing so far is to get the opus out of the way first. My personal statement—the Dragon’s Game Trilogy—is done. Granted it took twelve years to make it exactly as I wanted it, but it’s a big tale (comparable in length to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and featuring about three dozen significant characters over the course of the narrative.) If you have that “message” novel, do it first and get it out of the way. Then you can have fun and experiment with genres and subjects that interest you and you won’t feel burdened with the need to make your “grand statement.” Yes, you can say your philosophical piece in less than three novels. But I didn’t.
I grew up on science fiction and fantasy: TV shows, movies, books, comics…didn’t matter. I was writing synopses for Godzilla movies in fifth grade and trying to time my work so that the teacher thought I was taking notes. I wasn’t good at the hiding part, not sure any more about the plots either, but I knew I wanted to create stories. So naturally, I went on to be an engineer. Well, when that eventually became more grind than the pay was worth, and when I couldn’t catch on as a full time professor because of school politics, and I realized that bands are too hard to keep together, it came back to me: Didn’t you want to write stories? The funniest thing about it is that what may have kicked it all off for me is that American Godzilla movie: It was Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, it was Aliens—but it wasn’t MY Godzilla. So I thought, hey—I’ll see what I can do.