I recently had the honor of discovering an up-and-coming author that I really enjoy reading. Now, like a lot of people, I have enjoyed the works of Stephen King but I will openly admit that the Horror genre has not necessarily been my go-to when it comes to personal reading. I think the closest I come on a regular basis is the Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tufo. For the most part, I am a paranormal/fantasy/magical realism type of girl (including all the sub-genres in between) but when I was able to sink my teeth into Glenn Rolfe’s Blood and Rain I was hooked.
The werewolf has been through many variations and transformations in literature. From blood-lusting monster to just plain lusting heartthrobs, it has evolved from irrational killer to personable beings that the readers can relate to in some way. Let me be the first to say there is nothing wrong with any of it; I love seeing things evolve in different ways. However, there is something beautiful in nostalgic monsters of days gone by and Rolfe delivers a healthy dose of monster in Blood and Rain.
I will give you my thoughts on the novel in just a moment but, first, I took some time to talk to Glenn and ask him some questions. As someone who is starting to snowball into the biz, he is a prime candidate for some brain-picking by yours truly. My hope is that you, my lovely readers, might glean some insight from him.
Melissa: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this. As I’m sure you know, for the unversed writer, it’s frightening venturing out onto this path. Any guidance and advice we can glean from an established author is invaluable.
Glenn Rolfe: Thanks for having me. I’m glad to help out any way I can.
M: To get us started, you are pretty well settled in the horror genre. Most of your readers are aware that your reading tastes and influences are steeped in King, Little, and other horror masters. As an author, when was the moment you realized this was it, this was your niche?
GR: I knew from the word go. I got started in the writing thing pretty late. I wrote songs and sung in a bunch of punk bands for years. When it came to reading, it was always horror. King and Rice to start. Little, Laymon, Ketchum, and Keene after that.
In 2011, I had started a family, had two baby girls, was out of bands and out of work. I had dabbled with short stories in a notebook from time to time from about 2002 to 2007. Maybe like eight pieces total. When I was out of work I decided to start typing them from spiral notebooks onto my computer.
The piece that stood out had no title. It was about a small town, a sheriff and his daughter, and a werewolf. I was off and running. That story became this novel, Blood and Rain.
Horror is what I primarily read, so that’s where my writing always goes. I tried to write a sweet love story a couple years ago, but it went dark. It became a short story called, “Sweet 16.” It’s in my collection, Slush.
M: People have said you take your werewolves back to their roots by returning them to their former bloodthirsty monster-selves. With the recent years of romanticizing traditional monsters (I.E. Vampires, Werewolves, even Zombies) this path is very against the grain of the current trend. Have you ever worried that this choice might affect your success or readership?
GR: No. I don’t think about that stuff. You can’t chase trends or you’ll always end up behind the ball. It’s not an honest thing to do. It cheats yourself and your fans to go after “what’s hot.” There’s a cool song from an old band called, Extreme. The song is called “Hip Today.” Basically, if you’re just trying to be trendy, that has a limited shelf life. If you’re not being yourself and writing what YOU like…you’ll be gone tomorrow.
When I write, I write strictly for myself. As for my story, I think if I would have gone lovey dovey hot and fluffy with my werewolf, then my brother would have found a way to strike me down from Heaven.
There’s a place for that kind of wolf man. Just not on my computer.
M: What are some current trends in werewolf fiction you catch yourself rolling your eyes over, if any?
GR: None. I don’t keep up with that stuff. I know that there’s a romance niche for it…
I like W.D. Gagliani’s take with his Nick Lupo series. His wolf man is a detective. He keeps the novels moving with great prose and the perfect dash of sex and violence.
I just read Jonathan Janz’s Wolf Land, too. His beasts are no hold barred like mine, so of course I dig that. His story is pretty personal. He covers a lot of different characters and shows you a lot of different things in one novel. Pretty intense in some spots. One in particular has a very Bryan Smith feel to it.
No eye rolls from me. Just love.
M: Did you ever– or do you plan to– dabble in other genres? Aside from horror, what else tickles your fancy? (in either reading or writing)
GR: I will eventually. I have a crime novel in my back pocket to be written sometime in the next few years. Also, there’s a pretty sad story in there somewhere inspired by a song I love.
M: Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? Was it always that way?
GR: Pantser. All the way. I only start to plot when I’m about 2/3 of the way in. I feel like by then I have an idea where the story is going. Even then, if it wants to veer off, I let it.
Always done it that way. Could change. I never say never.
M: What are your pre-game rituals? Anything that really gets you in the “write” state-of-mind.
GR: Ha! I love that. I like to have a cup of coffee, sometimes I light a candle. I get some tunes going to set the mood, and then I open the current manuscript and go. That’s when I have the time and space to write.
My schedule is a bit too hectic to be able to settle into that each time, so I tend to work when and where I can. Sundays I’ll have football on the TV and my laptop on my lap and try to get some revisions done. Overnights at the hotel, I’ll put some tunes on and write…
I wish it could be a ritual every time. Maybe someday.
M: What stage of writing do you find the most difficult?
GR: That changes from project to project. Sometimes the first draft is the hard part, sometimes it’s the second run through where you find all these plot holes and characters that changed…sometimes it’s just coming up with a cool title.
For me, novels and novellas have come pretty easy. Short stories…that’s where the biggest challenge for me has been. You can’t get away with any missteps in a short story. There’s no room for it. It has to be good from start to finish or you’ll never keep the reader engaged.
M: What are some writing “rules” you love to break?
GR: Oh, I love to break as many as I can! No, I don’t worry about the rules until I have to. When I’m writing the first draft of anything, I just let it all come out how it wants to come out. I don’t plan things, so I’m not out there being rebellious on purpose.
I’m not afraid to kill characters. No matter how big they are to the story. If the story calls for them to hit the floor, I submit. Not sure if that counts as rule breaking, but I know it’s not easy for some writers to do.
M: You’ve put out a total of four works in the last year (with 5 more coming in 2016). That is quite a lot of writing in a very short amount of time, especially with your extra-curriculars and being a father of three! How do you remain so focused with so much going on at once?
GR: I’m almost never focused! Ha!
I’m driven. My dad and brother both died at young ages. My dad was 52 and my brother was 36. I live by the mantra “Life Won’t Wait”. You never know how much time you have on this Earth, don’t waste it. If you have something you want to do, something you love to do, do it now. If you wait until you have time, you’ll never get to it. You have to make time to do the things you love.
My brother and father lived pretty full lives for themselves, but they should have had a lot more time here. I’m kind of working for them, too.
M: Was there ever a point where you felt you might not make it? If so, what dragged you out of it?
GR: No. I didn’t have time to think about that. I mean, I made a goal. Get published. Did that in 2012. Get a novel published. Did that with a small publisher in 2014. Sell a story to legendary horror editor, Don D’Auria. Did that in 2014. My next goal, probably for 2017, is to get an agent and try my hand at landing a book with a big publisher. I think if I keep busting my ass, keep learning from my peers, I can get there. We all fail, but you just take the hits, roll with them, and keep moving forward. That’s always been my strategy.
M: In a few words, what do you feel is essential in becoming a published author, traditional or otherwise.
GR: Continually learning, reading, writing, and setting goals. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re done. We can always get better. If you’re always studying your craft and aiming higher, you’ll stand a better chance at achieving success. Being a New York Jets fan, I hate to point to Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, but he is the epitome of “what it takes to make it happen.” He’s so driven. He’s a Super Bowl champion, an MVP, and 37. He could sit back and coast, but he doesn’t. He hits the gym, the film room, the practice field, and game day like he’s still trying to prove himself. That’s what I strive to do as a writer. I can always be better, but I have to keep after it like I’ve never had it. I’ll read more, write more, study more, and always take advice when it’s dished out to me. I’m always listening.
M: Is there any part of your particular journey that you may feel you blew out of proportion? Something that, when the time came, you realized it wasn’t as scary as you thought it might be or, maybe, something that was unexpectedly world-altering?
GR: I haven’t run into that yet. I think maybe if you reach the top publishers and have some success, that would come with some new challenges. I hope to find out for myself.
M: When you spend so much time on one of your babies, it’s hard to hear that it’s not perfect in every way. What advice can you give our nervous up-and-comers or newborn writers on handling a bad review of something you hold so much pride in?
GR: Oh, boy! I love this subject. You can’t please everyone! Writers have to know this. It is impossible to please each and every person who dives into your tale. Just be grateful that someone took the time to read it, say thank you, and move on. If you’re like me and read every review of your work that you see… you have to have this mindset. There are things that can be learned from bad reviews. If you have one aspect of your writing that is constantly popping up (poor character development, bad dialogue, boring narrative sections…) you might have spotted a weakness in your work that you can work on. In that case, be grateful someone was honest enough to point it out. Take the negative and make it a positive. Again, that’s if it is something that is a common thread in your reviews. Not if Jack Booksnob is the only one who thought your characters seemed wrong because he couldn’t relate to them. Could be Jack just doesn’t know anybody like your characters. Maybe he lives with his mom and doesn’t have any friends? Who knows. I’m just saying that one review doesn’t prove jack. If it becomes a trend in your reviews, then it’s worth looking into.
You’re allowed to be bummed out. That’s human nature, but don’t let it cling to you. Taylor tells me to Shake it off. So I do. You should, too.
M: Is there anything you wish to say before we wrap up? Something you’d like to announce or maybe some words of wisdom– or warning– to give us baby writers out there?
GR: If you’re going to self-publish, take it as serious as if you were working for one of the New York publishers. That means PAY for a real editor. Do NOT trust yourself. You ALWAYS need another set of eyes to check your work. Especially someone who has a degree or background in doing so. Never skimp on cover art! There are a lot of great young artists out there. DeviantArt is a great site to check out and meet artists.
I’ll just say from experience that going the traditional route is for the best. No editor is going to kiss your ass. You have to prove yourself. Their job (the good ones anyway) is to be the quality assurance for the would-be readers out there. They are needed now more than ever. Don’t be in a hurry to publish your story. You only get one chance to make a first impression (said Head and Shoulders).
I’d advise going the traditional route. But if you still decide to self-publish, do it like a professional. Editor, cover artist, and if you don’t know how to properly format your book for the eBook transference, find someone who does. Help is out there!
It’s a relief to hear that other authors, especially ones that are starting to see the success we so eagerly chase after, are not too different than us. They were once exactly where we are standing in our career. It gives us hope when the concept seems so much more fantastical than the stories we write. I want to give Glenn a huge THANK YOU for taking the time to answer the questions of an absolute unknown writer-wannabe. If you want to take a peek at my review for Blood and Rain, you can find it here. Please, do yourselves a favor and take a look. Or, do one even better, and dive into one of his books. I know I have three other books to crack open and I think I am going to start with Slush. Keep an eye out for a review in the future.
Blood and Rain, Synopsis
The light of a full moon reveals many secrets.
Gilson Creek, Maine. A safe, rural community. Summer is here. School is out and the warm waters of Emerson Lake await. But one man’s terrible secret will unleash a nightmare straight off the silver screen. Under the full moon, a night of terror and death re-awakens horrors long sleeping. Sheriff Joe Fischer, a man fighting for the safety of his daughter, his sanity and his community, must confront the sins of his past. Can Sheriff Fischer set Gilson Creek free from the beast hiding in its shadows, or will a small town die under a curse it can’t even comprehend? One night can-and will-change everything.
Find Glenn Rolfe at: http://glennrolfe.com/ as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Biography, Glenn Rolfe
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and the forthcoming, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will be released in March, 2016.
He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!
Praise for Blood and Rain
“A major new talent rises from the Maine woods…Rolfe is the real deal, and Blood and Rain is a classic monster novel, full of blood and teeth and the kind of razor sharp writing that makes the pages sing. Small town horror is back, with a vengeance!” –Nate Kenyon, award-winning author of Sparrow Rock, Diablo: Storm of Light and Day One
“With slashing claws and blood-soaked fur, Blood and Rain will have you howling in terror and delight. A welcome addition to the werewolf mythos, and proof that we’re in the presence of a rising star in the genre. Highly recommended!” -Ronald Malfi, author of The Floating Staircase
“Rolfe tells a tale that captures your attention like King without all of the wordiness. He also spills the red stuff like Laymon…” – Into the Macabre
“Blood and Rain is a monumental piece of horror fiction. It represents everything I love about werewolves, creature features, siege films, and everything else in between. It is still early in the year, but this is a clear cut candidate for my favorite book of 2015.” — Horror Underground
“Wow! Easily one of the best werewolf books I’ve ever read.” – Hunter Shea, author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon
“Some good ‘ol fashion violence and gore…” – Jason Parent, author of Seeing Evil
“Glenn Rolfe takes a swing at the werewolf genre and hits a home run.” – Russell James, author of Q Island and Dreamwalker
“…not just another werewolf story, Rolfe has managed to take the werewolf to a-whole-nother level…” – Horror Novel Reviews
“The best werewolf novel I’ve read since Jeff Strand’s Wolf Hunt.”–Horror After Dark
Barnes & Noble
For a chance to win a print copy of Glenn Rolfe’s short story collection, Slush, or a chance to win your choice of any of his titles in e-book format, go to the link below for the Rafflecopter sign-up. Good luck! The print copy is only good for those in the United States. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.
Stan Springs stared at the curse in the night sky. His curse. He clenched his jaw, and bit back the grunts that demanded release from within his sweat-covered body. His muscles tightened and took turns throwing fits. He could feel his heartbeat’s thunderous barrage at work inside his heaving chest. It was only a matter of minutes before the changes would come.
He ripped his gaze from the clouds, moved away from the window and knelt down next to the bed against the concrete wall. He slipped one shaky hand beneath the mattress and found the small incision he’d made when he first arrived at the institution. He had traded a guard, a heavyset fella by the name of Harold Barnes, his prized Ted Williams rookie card in exchange for a copy of the key. Parting with this gold mine had been necessary. Stan Springs had nothing else of value with which to barter. Harold trusted him enough to make the swap; he told Stan there were crazies here by the dozen, but he could tell that Stan was not one of them.
No, Harold, I’m something far worse.
Key in hand, Stan stepped to the unlocked door and cracked it open. The hallway was clear. He moved down the corridor, as stealthily as during his heydays working on the force in New York. Hearing footfalls ahead and to his left, he fell back and pressed his large frame against the custodial door. Hidden by the entryway’s shadow, he watched Nurse Collins—a tall, thin woman with a dark complexion—pass fifty feet from where he stood, before she disappeared into the nurses’ break room.
Barefoot and dressed in only a Red Sox T-shirt and his sleeping shorts, Stan made a break for the staircase across the hall. His breaths were coming faster now. If he didn’t hurry, he wouldn’t make it outside. He crept down the steps leading to the main hallway.
Through the small window on the stairwell door, he could see Harold Barnes’s haunted jowls illuminated by the laptop screen in front of him. The old man’s eyes were closed, his mouth open. Harold hadn’t even made it an hour into his shift before he was out. Stan knew Harold also ran his own antique shop in the neighboring town of Hallowell. He’d told Stan that working both jobs on the same day, which was sometimes unavoidable, made it difficult for him on the night shift. It was another shared nugget Stan had stored away for nights like this one—the nights the beast in him needed to get out.
Easing the door open, Stan skulked his way along the shadows on the wall, and tiptoed to the main entrance door. Despite the cramps now rampaging through his calves and thighs, he slipped the procured key into the lock, slow and steady. The door clicked open, and he stepped out into the night.
As the cool breeze brushed against the sweat of his brow, the tendons and bones in his face began to shift. The rest of his body followed suit. He dropped to one knee and cried out. His skin, his scalp, his eyes, his muscles were all too tight. He reached behind him and managed to push the door shut.
If you could see me now, Harold.
The private roads out front were deserted. He launched from the building’s stairs and landed on the lawn below, making a beeline for the woods to the left of the large property.
He was twenty feet from the forest when the change hit him like a massive wave, crashing him to the ground. His muscles clenched and squeezed and tore, while the bones of his face continued to crack and grow. His teeth began to fall out in place of the monster’s. Down on all fours, he crawled to the tree cover and vomited. A mix of last night’s cafeteria meat loaf, black coffee, loose teeth, and blood splashed the ferns before him. Stan’s fingers extended as his claws dug into the soft soil of spring’s floor. He moaned and grunted his way through the rest of the fluid process.
In full beast mode, Stan Springs stood and howled at the cloud-covered sky. The creatures of the night became ghosts among the trees. He felt the strength flowing through him and the hunger begging to be sated.
He burst forward, headed north. Despite Stan’s best effort to control the beast’s killing zone, he found himself heading home.