Writer Interview by Andrew D. Michaels — Derek Barton – 2019

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My friend and colleague, Andrew D. Michaels, has a running set up to interview writers for his Facebook page.  You guessed it — I am next up on his rotation!

Enjoy!!

Today on the chatbox, we have our own Derek Barton! He’s here talking about his upcoming multiverse and check out his website below for free excerpts and shenanigans!

DB: I am a self-published writer since 2016. My favorite genres that I write in are the same that I love to read: Horror & Fantasy. I tend to blend my work with elements of horror in all that I create. In other words, my epic fantasy has some rather dark elements. I guess you’d say that I am primarily a horror writer.

ADM: That’s awesome! Would you say that not only the horror genre has severely influenced your writing, but any authors in particular?

DB: Like most writers of my generation, I can point to Stephen King’s influence and I do so proudly! He’s a master at creating characters that are so meaningful and powerful that you never forget them. That is one of the key goals I have in my stories. On the other side, fantasy writer Piers Anthony influenced me at first then R. A. Salvatore (of the D&D Forgotten Realms literature). Also, Dean Koontz, J RR Tolkien, and Stephen R Donaldson inspired me. Even to this day, I get inspired by them. Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes got me so excited by crime horror that I wrote my Elude series because of the unique way he twisted real-life with horror factors.

ADM: I can relate to those! So, what was the catalyst in the transition from reader to writer?

DB: I had given up striving/dreaming of being a writer since I was never able to write a full story out. Had tons of half-finished work. Then I learned during the writing of Consequences Within Chaos (my first book) that I was a ‘’plotter’’! So, what that means is that I had to have every detail planned out and couldn’t sit at the computer and just write by the seat of my pants (what’s called a ‘’pantser’’). After learning how to better develop and structure my work, it was easy to see the dream come true and be an actual writer. My good friend, Doug Sanburn, from high school, had belief in me and he was an accomplished, published writer, so I took the leap of faith. And never looked back! In my opinion, this is the greatest time in the ages of man to be a writer. There’s so much reference material and writing craft detailed out there on the net that you can simply watch videos or read articles and find you can do and write anything!

ADM: It’s always good to have someone on the team. Now, you have published many books since then, what was something that you were surprised to learn along the way about the writing itself, or as an author?

DB: Other than how precise and formulaic stories have become in structure and themes. It’s not a bad thing, but it was surprising to see if you knew what to watch for in any story. I think another thing that surprised me especially was the fight scenes. I never anticipated how daunting they could be. You must choreograph everything, everyone and every hit long before you write it out. Too much rides on getting those details right and they can totally throw your story off or derail a great plot. My first battle scene so scared me that I stopped writing for several months before finally braving an attempt. It was stage fright but for writing!

ADM: That sounds like a challenge. Were there any scenes that you were proud of, or perhaps a personal favorite?

DB: Each time you finish a story it becomes your absolute favorite child. Then you write another and that suddenly becomes your favorite. As far as a favorite scene I can’t narrow it down that precise, but Elude, my crime/horror story I cannot help but feel the happiest with. I get excited by it every time I think about it and what happened overall with the storyline.

There’s another crime-horror story I am developing which has a couple common elements with Elude, so it is called Evade. I get literally giddy thinking about its story. Guess that doesn’t really answer your question, but I am just so thrilled and happy with the complete tales I have been able to piece together and share with my fans.

ADM: That’s awesome though. Is Evade the next release we can expect from you? Care to share something about the story for those that aren’t familiar with Elude?

DB: My current schedule for my works in progress go as the third fantasy novel in my Wyvernshield series (the end of the trilogy) then the first Evade, then possibly publication of a web series I am doing called Juxtaposed, a fantasy/dystopian tale. As far as Evade goes, it will be a police drama (the main characters) and it takes place in Philly. My first horror novella, In Four Days, took place in Philly and a character from In Four Days will come back and crossover into Evade. I did the same with Elude where one of the main characters, Detective Ellis, was a character in In Four Days. Essentially Elude and Evade are tied to the horror novella In Four Days.

My fantasy world is connected, and my horror story world is connected. By the way, I put a lot of free excerpts of the books and stories on my website. The first five chapters of Elude #1 were on there for instance. Something fans can take advantage of!

ADM: It sounds like that while each series is separate on its own. But are they are all tangentially connected?

DB: Yes! I think it adds a lot to the back story. I remember that as a fan reader when I found that Cujo, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Dead Zone and The Stand all were connected in subtle ways by Stephen King, it really made a big impact. This was of course before you had the Marvel Universe and things like that. I think King kind of pioneered that front.

ADM: Agreed. So, with that in mind, was there any significance to the titles when you chose them?

DB: Elude and Evade were meant to give you the sense of chase and desperation. An air of frantic suspense. Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown which are my two fantasy stories are titled based on the content. In Four Days too could be said to be titled for content as the demon that hunts for lost souls in Philly toys with his victims for four straight days before he takes them. In Evade one of the supposed victims of the demon in In Four Days suddenly shows up on a street corner… and that is all I can hint about that!

ADM: In having multiple series, was the first book more difficult than the others to write or vice versa?

DB: No, I am finding that the end of the series is the challenge! Everyone has “fallen in love” with your world and your characters thus you can’t let them down (aka GAME OF THRONES SYNDROME!). I worried that Elude wasn’t going to live up to expectations, but so far, I have been getting a lot of positive feedback on it. I hope that the third Wyvernshield will have the same result. Right now, I am struggling with the title. It’s either going to be Swimming in the Ashes or Sentinels of the Shield. Then down the road I want to do another whole fantasy trilogy in that same world but with a new set of character/creatures starting in Aberrisc (readers will understand that reference!) versus starting in the sister world of Tayneva like I did with this series. I think since I didn’t get going until I was 40 that all these stories have piled up in me and are dying to get out now! I keep having story ideas come out of nowhere and won’t stop running around in my head until they get released!

ADM: Sounds like you’ve got a lot planned out! So, tell us, is writer’s block something you believe in?

DB: No. But you must know yourself as a writer. Like I said before, I found out that outlines were my lifeline. Without a good outline, I would flounder in my story, get writer’s block or lose interest and story momentum. With the outline, it became technically my first draft. For instance, with Consequences I had a bullet outline that was 70+ pages and 80+ pages for The Bleeding Crown. My fantasy stories are long and involved with several plots, etc. My horror stories tend to have “beat outlines” which are usually less than 20+ pages. They’re complicated tales too, but it’s usually the protagonist versus the villain/monster and how badly the main character is “almost” screwed. In other words, it is like the difference in needed outlines for the movie Jaws vs The Lord of the Rings. Great stories each but Jaws is a bit more cut and dry so to speak.

ADM: Any anticipated release dates coming up?

DB: Unfortunately, no. I try to write daily or work on editing/marketing every day, but I’ve got a new and very involved day job as a marketing supervisor with an insurance company. The change from night shift to day shift has impacted my production heavily. I am working at finding ways to get more done, but my “expensive hobby” doesn’t pay my bills thus the day job has to be in my reality. Right now, 2020 and 2021 will have work produced & published. Elude is almost set to have an audible version in the next month or so! I am excited to hear it. The voice actor, S.W. Salzman is fantastic!! And of course, the voice actress, Laura Richcreek, who did the fantasy novels will be doing the third book when it’s completed. Her talent has no limits!

ADM: Fair enough. That’s exciting for the audio release! Do you attend any writing events like NaNoWriMo or Camp Nano? What has your experience been with these events?

DB: I have participated in Nanowrimo and while I see the appeal and the motivation it can provide, I found it just didn’t work for me, especially schedule-wise. The first year I “won” with Elude but then the following year I tried to write fantasy and my outline was just not complete enough. I don’t think I’ll do it this year, but I haven’t fully decided. I write all the time and the idea of only writing for one or two months in the year kind of blows my mind. My production goals require me to get to it faster I guess is what I am saying. If I didn’t have the extra responsibility of a day job and a family of three children to raise, I would probably be more engaged with it. No one wants to see themselves fall behind and fail.

ADM: I agree. Well Derek, thanks so much for talking with me. It’s been a blast and I’d love to catch your release party! Do you have any parting remarks for the readers?

DB: Thanks again for this great opportunity! Writing is now just a facet of me that won’t stop or go away, so I just want fans to know that I am still writing, still carving out worlds and tales to entertain them. Please be patient with me and I’ll always try to make it worth the wait!

LINKS:

https://authorderekbarton.blog

https://www.facebook.com/NovelistDerekBarton/

ELUDE Ebook Trailer:

https://www.facebook.com/derek.barton.96/videos/10212239066646343/UzpfSTE4NDcwNzY2MzU1MDUyNjM6MjM2NDQ4Njc3NzA5NzU3Nw/

What Are My Top 15 Horror Films?? — Derek Barton

Top 15 Horror

 

As a horror story writer, I do get this question put to me often.  I’m no expert on what makes a great film, but as a fan and a reader of horror fiction, I do know what makes me jump or gets under my skin.

One of the common elements I find in horror films is the overuse of “Jump Scares” — objects suddenly thrown, animals (especially cats for some reason) leaping for no reason out of the shadows or people appearing out of the thin air behind the main character.  “Jump Scares” as cheap and often detracting from the story in my opinion.  They can be done right, of course, like in the movie, Alien, when Dallas cannot find the creature supposedly right on him. He climbs down two steps of his ladder and there it is!

Another abused element is gore, especially in most of Rob Zombie’s films (fan of his music, not his movies!). Gore has its place — can you imagine the scene where Danny Torrance from The Shining rides alone on his Big Wheel then turns into the hallway with the mutilated twin girls without any blood or bodies? Wouldn’t have the same chilling effect. Yet if you constantly throw gore in my face I’m either going to get sickened or bored with it.

When I watch a horror movie, I want to be fully immersed in the tension of the movie, on the edge of my seat as I react to the character actions, and holding my breath as I see something the hero/heroine doesn’t see in the background!

My list has some surprises, but being that I am a Stephen King fanatic, well…some films won’t surprise you. I didn’t list films that I consider horror/comedies — Shaun of the Dead and Dale and Tucker vs Evil being some of my ultimate favorites. I wanted to do a list of true, classic horror.

Listed in last place to best of the best:

15# Scream — A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

Not a completely great film, but I listed it due to its genre-expanding twists and the incredible performance by Drew Barrymore in the opening scene.

14# Don’t Breathe — Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

Very intense suspenseful film.  Sad that this was based on an actual similar account where the homeowner lured teenage thieves and waited for them with loaded guns in the shadows of his basement. Burglary sucks but no one deserves death sentences for it.

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13# The Eye — A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she would be able to see again. However, she got more than what she bargained for when she realized she could even see ghosts.

This isn’t the bland remake done with Jessica Alba. This is the original Chinese film.  I can still feel the hair on my arms rise when I think about the ghost floating behind the woman in the elevator.  *Shudder!

12# The Grudge — An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

A film based in Tokyo and very well done! Superb acting and special effects that were unique (copied many times after!).  Used sound as extra way to horrify the audience — the groaning little boy was awesome!

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11# Autopsy of Jane Doe — A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

A really creepy twist to a witch story. Freaky effects and intense up close and personal with a gray corpse makes for a great horror story.  I rank this as one of Brian Cox’s best roles as the father.

10# Nightmare on Elm Street — The monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.

Another film that broke through the genre’s cliche barriers. Actually based on an urban legend from Japan, Wes Craven delivered an unforgettable villain!

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9# Evil Dead (2013) — Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.

Yes, I have to say it, but I like the remake better than the original. Bruce Campbell is one of my favorite B-actors! So funny!! Yet, even the producers and writers of the films said that the remake was what they wanted to do with the original but just didn’t have the budget for and it came out pretty campy. Both have their place but overall this one was truly terrorizing and a better film. Viewer warning…a lot of gore in this one!

8# Saw — Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.

Many people don’t like this film due to the torture aspects of it, but I have a spot in my top list for it due to the fact that one of the stars, Leigh Whannell, actually wrote the screenplay.  Kind of inspiring when a writer gets such a great response from his own work…

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7# Ghost Story —  Two generations of men find themselves haunted by the presence of a spectral woman. When the son of one of the elderly men returns to his hometown after his brother’s mysterious death, they attempt to unravel her story.  

Probably not many people remember this sleeper hit, but it is still a great thrill and an epic tale of hidden guilt and revenge.

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6# A Quiet Place — In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Another inspiring horror story that was written by one of its stars, John Krasinski (from The Office fame).  He created such an elaborate and unique story that already clone-like films, The Bird Box and The Silence have tried to jump on the bandwagon. A sequel is in the works and I am very excited to see it!

5# Jaws — When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

If you haven’t heard of this film or seen it, then I say “welcome to America!” as you must’ve just come here! LOL.  All kidding aside, award-winning acting from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.  It has aged well and yet to be outdone by any recent shark-themed movies. (Although I will say that The Shallows was pretty damn good too for a modern twist.)

4# Alien — After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

While this is a sci-fi film it has such a horror foundation that it is essential to the list of great horror films. Plus Sigourney Weaver turned in a surprise breakthrough performance which she will always be remembered for.

3# IT — In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

This was one of my all-time favorite books by Stephen King, but other than Tim Curry’s amazing performance as Pennywise in the television mini-series, it had not been done well up to this point.  Liked this version, but would have been phenomenal had Tim Curry been the clown.  Still a great rendition of King’s book.

2# The Thing — A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Seeing this film was like walking in a haunted house for two hours. Gruesome effects to bring out the best scares in this classic and a twist almost at every turn.  Even its ending is still controversial and debated about who was what. And this was by far to me the best performance of Kurt Russel’s career.

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1# The Shining — A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future. 

An epic film filled with iconic scenes like an elevator filled with blood to an ax thrusting threw a door inches from someone’s face. Truly a great terrifying film. Stephen King didn’t like this version and while I understand his reasons, it is still a jaw-dropping film with incredible performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.  The upcoming sequel, Doctor Sleep, should be a great look back to the film and I’m excited that they got Ewan McGregor in the lead role as Danny Torrance!

 

Honorable Mentions:

Brightburn — What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? (Aka. An Evil Superman)

The Ring — A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it. (Dorky story idea but really well told.)

Hereditary — After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. (Some pretty original traumatic scenes.  Bit of a slow-burner though…)

Mama — A young couple take in their two nieces only to suspect that a supernatural spirit named Mama has latched itself to their family. (The ending on this one killed it for me. Up to then, it was a great film!)

Pet Sematary — After tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead. (Recently gave you my opinion on this one!  Click here for that blog review of the recent two film versions).

Silent Hill — A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill. (Great atmospheric horror film. What an incredible setting using a mining town that has been abandoned due to still burning fires below them?  Fog and ash drifting down…creatures leaping out from the smoke. Perfect fun!)

 

Movies I want to check out in the near future:

Us –– A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.

Bone Tomahawk — In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

Crawl — A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a Category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.

Are there better films than some of what I listed?  Maybe.  Sure probably. But it’s just my humble opinion and these were films that I remembered long after I had seen them. Some of the films just had one or two elements that I didn’t like that precluded them as well.  So, what I’m saying is, no nasty comments about what an idiot I am for forgetting such-an-such film.  I have my list, you can make yours! ha

NOW you have insight into what a horror story writer looks for when watching movies and reading books…and what we want to recapture in our own works!