Friday, November 21, 2014

Interview with Author Gair McDonald

Today I'd like to introduce you to a fresh new voice in the horror genre. Gair McDonald, a screenwriter who lives in Scotland, has written a wonderful haunted house short story called Blackwood Manor, now available as an ebook. I had the pleasure of editing Gair’s short story and designing the cover. We’ve also had some great conversations about soccer, horror movies, and the art of writing hair-raising tales of terror. Gair was nice enough to stop by my blog for a visit and chat about what inspired him to write a ghost story.

Synopsis: Welcome to Blackwood Manor, a three-story Scottish house steeped in ancient history and myth. For many years the manor has remained abandoned and left to rot, until now. The Marshall Family has arrived. Hank and Emily are hoping that moving out to the country will give them a fresh start with their daughter Amy. But evil lurks in the most unlikely of places, waiting for new victims to cross its threshold.

There are plenty of chilling moments in Blackwood Manor and some unexpected twists and turns. The fact that it’s located in Scotland made it an enjoyable read for me. I especially loved the relationship between Hank Marshall and his young daughter, Amy, and the tension between Amy and her mother. Gair, tell readers about where your idea for this ghost story originated from.

What I like about the whole haunted house theme is that you can do what you like with it, turn it into what you want. The concept for Blackwood Manor actually came from a short script which for years I thought about turning into a short story.

Interestingly, there are significant differences; the script simply had the main character going to the manor where two women reside. Suffice it to say, it's evident that when the character is there things “aren't right.” In the short story we have a family living in the manor hoping for a fresh start. There may be differences from the script and short story, however, a couple of themes stay the same: the manor is clearly steeped in myth and history. And the differences in the short story . . . well, you will have to read for yourself!

What compels you to write horror?

Like many others, writing for me is a form of escapism. Horror is a great seller for writing. I think the beauty of horror is that I don't think people ever get tired or fed up of horror one way. It does sell. Horror fans will always have their favourite character or theme.

When it comes to writing, whether it be a short story or screenplay, I have enjoyed writing horror. Each story that I have done is set in the same “world.” There are nods to my other stories; for instance, my current “creature feature” screenplay references Blackwood Manor.

I also write horror as a fun means of escapism and agree that the genre, whether it be books or movies, tends to stay popular. Gair, thanks so much for visiting and I look forward to reading more stories from the fictional world you’ve created.

For those interested in reading Blackwood Manor it’s available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and more.

Gair McDonald is based in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has been passionate about writing for over ten years. To date, he has written short stories, several screenplays, and two television pilots. In his spare time, he enjoys going to the cinema, gym, walking, and spending time with his children.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Guest Author Matt Manochio and Book Tour Giveaway

Today’s guest is an up and coming new author who has just released a scary and thrilling Christmas novel just in time for the holidays. Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant is a winter’s tale about the legendary Krampus. December 5 is Krampus Nacht — Night of the Krampus, a horned, cloven-hoofed monster who in pre-Christian European cultures serves as the dark companion to Saint Nicholas, America’s Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas rewards good children and leaves bad ones to Krampus, who kidnaps and tortures kids unless they repent.

I love books based on folklore and legends, so I’m looking forward to reading Manochio’s new book. Check out The Dark Servant and stick around for his interview and tour giveaway below. 

Here’s the synopsis:

Santa's not the only one coming to town ...

It's older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy's devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint's ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.

The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be—eerie, original and utterly engrossing!”
Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author

In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. This is a winter’s tale, yes, but it is also a genuinely new one for our modern times. I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.”
Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead and Dog Days

“A fast-paced thrill-ride into an obscure but frightful Christmas legend. Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.”
John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes

I’m always intrigued by how other writers manage to churn out great novels and go on book tours while working a busy schedule. Here’s a brief interview about how Matt Manochio writes books while also working a full-time job and being a husband and dad.

When authors embark on promotional tours and visit review websites, blogs and the like, interviewers will invariably ask the same questions.

Variations of “Why did you write this book?” or “What inspired you to write about … ?” usually are the first ones asked. And that’s fine! They make sense to ask.

However, sometimes we authors want to be asked certain questions but we never get them. Usually they involve the mechanics of writing, budgeting time, etc. Author routines fascinate me. So, without further delay, here are a few questions interviewers haven’t gotten around to asking:

Q: Where do you physically sit down to do your writing? Do you have a favorite place?

 A: Glad you asked! My wife and I own a small home, and before that we lived in a small apartment, so having my own little man cave/den decorated with Star Wars action figures and other toys that I really should’ve outgrown decades ago isn’t feasible at this point. So I write on my bed. Yup. I feel most comfortable sitting crosslegged on my spot on the bed click-clacking the hours away, lost in my own little world with far fewer action figures surrounding me than I would like.

Q: What do you require when writing? Do you like having the television on, or your beloved AC/DC rocking in the background?

A: Again, great question. I like silence. I’m not saying other people who have music or whatnot playing in the background are wrong to do so. It’s simply my preference. I find I’m better able to focus on filling those blank white pages with nothing but the voices in my head.

Q: Do you have millions of ideas in your head just waiting to get out?

A: Nope. I operate as follows: I get a kernel of an idea and begin to mentally expand on it. “How can I make this work on the page?” I don’t automatically sit down and start writing. I usually ruminate over things for a few weeks before even sitting down. I don’t have multiple story ideas elbowing themselves aside to get my attention. I’m comfortable with writing one book a year, and hopefully can work in a novella. I’ve yet to have two books under construction at once, allowing me to switch back and forth between them. I prefer zeroing in one subject at a time. Then, after it’s done and off to the editor, I like to unwind for a month or so, and then the bug starts biting again.

 Q: How many hours or writing do you prefer to get in a day, and do you like hitting a certain word count?

A: You’re batting 1.000 with these awesome questions. Like most authors you’ve never heard of, I have my day job (thank God!) and my familial responsibilities (including being a husband and father to a toddler) and that greatly saps my writing time. Things were soooooooo much easier when Nathan couldn’t walk! I usually get home from my job around 4:15 p.m. and get a precious hour and change of writing time before I have to pick Nathan up at day care and then make dinner, etc. Unfortunately, Nathan has no set bedtime (believe me, we’re trying). When he did, and he went to sleep at 8:30 p.m., I usually had an extra two hours to write. That’s not currently the case. I would love to have three hours a day to write, but I don’t. Sometimes it’s an hour and 15 minutes. (I can’t function by getting up at 4 a.m. specifically to write. It’d be nice if I could!) When I get going, however, and the words fly, I’m happy to get 1,000 words a day. Certainly I like to work in more writing on the weekends when I can. And when my wife knows I’m heavily into a book, she’ll volunteer to watch the little guy so I can focus on my work. Aww. Love.

You can find The Dark Servant at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Samhain Horror, Kobo and wherever books are sold.

Tour Giveaway!

For everyone! CREATE a PINTEREST board by choosing one of the following themes: Krampus, Old World Legends, Vintage Holiday, Old World Christmas, Christmas Around the World, Traditions and Legends, Myths, Monsters, and Horror, or something very similar.
Second rule: You must pin Matt's book cover and Amazon purchase link or Samhain Horror Purchase link. Third Rule: Follow Matt Manochio and Erin Al-Mehairi.

Third Recommendation: Extra points for pinning extra things about Matt, such as tour page, articles, etc.

Your board will be judged on the above PLUS your creativity and effort in the project! Send Erin at your Pinterest page to enter by Dec. 8. Of course you can continue to use it through the Holiday if you wish!

Prize: A "Santa Checked His List and I'm on the Naughty Side" package. This will include your choice of Krampus themed apparel (t-shirt or sweatshirt, men or women, visuals to come) and a signed paperback of the book.

There might be shipping limitations. Check back to tour page before entering if you live outside the U.S. for updated information.

And a board about Matt:

Giveaway for Reviewers!

Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Dark Servant on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Matt Manochio) at, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway.

He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer.

The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.

To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer's Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller.

Matt’s a dedicated fan of bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn't own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)

Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s Lot, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).
Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in history/journalism.

Photo Credit: Eric Schnare

See more about Matt and his book on his website: and follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@MattManochio), Pinterest.