Friday, August 25, 2017

Interview with Jerome Sparks

Jerome Sparks, author of Love Death and Other Lies, is with us today.
1. When did you decide to start writing stories?

I started writing stories when I was a kid, back in grade school.  I would write stories and incorporate kids in my class as characters.  I was an awkward kid.  I wasn’t all that great at making friends.  These stories were my attempt to fit in and to find my place. 

The stories I came up with were fantasy adventure stories where the whole class was somehow trapped in a world of giants, monsters and witches.  I tried to give everybody a scene of their own.  Something that stood out.  Of course, I did manage to piss off a few kids when I killed off their characters.  I did this because (even back then) I knew that I needed a sense of danger!  I tried to explain this to them but, as you can imagine, I didn’t put it in quite those same terms because I didn’t really understand the whole process that clearly at the time.  I just had a feel for how you shaped a story.  As you might imagine, even with my explanation, they didn’t take it well.  Still, I had fun writing those stories.   

I also remember writing a play and recruiting other kids to star in it.  They were more than happy to agree to star in it.  But, to be honest, I’m pretty sure that I was probably the only kid taking the idea of doing a play seriously.  I suppose I didn’t care.  Just writing the thing was fun for me – sharing story ideas with the other kids and knocking things around.

And that’s what I enjoy about writing today, coming up with a story-line and sharing it with people.  It’s a thrill.

2. Why horror and suspense versus the other genres?

I’ve been asked this several times and the answer is simply that I’ve always loved horror stories.  I discovered horror stories when I was a kid, before I’d learned to read, from the stories my dad would tell me at night.  Some of my favorite stories were about an old comic book character called “The Heap.”  It was a comic-book series he read when he was a kid, about a World War I flying ace who crashed into a swamp in Poland and became – THE HEAP!!!  The Heap was a precursor to DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing, where the pilot’s body was overtaken by vegetation in the swamp and transformed him into a beastly form. 

It was a great story.  At least, the version of the story my dad told me was great.  I never read any of the comics.  He’d read them back in the 1940s.  I think the Heap was reborn in comics published later, but I never picked any of those up.  That wasn’t my Heap.  My Heap was the version that came from my father’s bed-time stories.      
My early love of horror also came from movies and television. 

Growing up as a kid in the 1970s, one of my favorite things was staying up late every Saturday night and watching an old program titled - "Chiller Theater."  It aired on a local network affiliate here in
West Virginia and played all the classic Universal movies – Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  They also played those 1950s horror films inspired by Cold War anxieties like – Them, The Thing From Another World, The Blob, War of the Worlds, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  And they aired a number of films starring horror icon Vincent Price like House of Wax, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Last Man On Earth.  It was a great time for a kid.  And, being able to stay up past 11:30 made it feel like something special, something rare and extraordinary! 

For me, the intro to Chiller was as much a classic as the films Chiller played.  If you remember the intro to HBO’s “Tales From The Crypt” horror series, you’ll have an idea of what the intro to Chiller looked like.  But you have to imagine that intro done with a much smaller budget and far less technical skill.  The intro was set at night, with a pale moon in the background.  The shot started with a long, tight zoom up a barren hillside, dotted with lifeless trees, until we reached the top where the model of a crumbling, Victorian style house stood.  Then a booming, baritone voice announced the titles of the night’s double feature.  It all ended with a flash of light and clap of thunder. 
 
But, like everything, “Chiller Theater” came to an end.  I don’t remember exactly when it went off
the air.  There was no announcement.  It simply disappeared from the airwaves.  Luckily, videocassette players (VHS and Beta formats) came along around that same time.  I was in high school and on the weekends I’d get together with my buddies and we’d rent the latest horror movies, order pizzas and settle in for hours in front of the television.  It was the 1980s, so of course we watched things like the Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween films.   But we also loved the low budget, independent horror films, too.  Things like – The Evil Dead, Pumpkinhead, Re-Animator, Dawn of the Dead and Sleepaway Camp (this one had a twist ending that had all the guys wincing). 

We knew the majority of these movies were never going to be classified as classics.  But that wasn’t the point.  We weren’t exactly cinephiles.  We were teens who wanted a good scare and enjoyed hanging out together.  Like staying up for Chiller, it was the experience that meant something, as much as any of the films we were watching.  Staying up all night and watching these movies with my pals was something we shared as a tight-nit group.  It defined us. 

Anyway, that was the start of my love of horror.  Thanks to my sister, I went on to discover the books of John Saul, V.C. Andrews, Clive Barker and Anne Rice.  And from there my love of horror grew. 

The 1980s seemed like a great time for horror writers.  There were so many books out there – and Stephen King stood at the top of the heap. 

3. Who is your favorite character in Love Death and Other Lies and why?

That’s tough.  But, if I had to choose a character, I think I’d say that my favorite character is Abby, Liv Bestte’s younger sister.  The story really is Abby’s story, because the real character arc is dedicated to how she grows and becomes who she is at the end of the novel.

A major focus of the story is the dynamic between Liv and Abby.  It is their relationship which propels the story toward its conclusion.  Without their history, the story wouldn’t end as it does.  This is despite the fact that Abby is the first person killed by the reanimated thing that was once Conner Bestte. 
    
Abby is something of a tragic figure and I’ve always had soft spot for tragic figures.  At the start, I’m certain the reader doesn’t look at Abby with much sympathy.  But, hopefully, they will by the end.  Through flashbacks that fill in her back story, I tried to show the reader how Abby ended up where she is at the beginning of the novel and how she becomes the person she is at the end.        

4. What are your plans for the next writing project?

There are a couple of things I’m working on.  The story I’m currently writing is about a demon who has been charged with following an orphaned girl from infancy to adulthood, waiting for his opportunity to corrupt her soul and damn her to Hell.  Of course, it isn’t a clear-cut story.  I’m working to make certain there are plenty of twists and turns packed into it.

I’ve also got another story that I’ve completed but which needs a good rewrite.  It’s about a girl growing up with a mother who is a practicing witch.  As you can imagine, some of the life lessons she picks up aren’t the conventional sort and how those lessons play out as she grows up is the meat of the story. 

I put the second one aside for a while to give myself some distance from it before I try a rewrite.  Stepping away for a while allows me to look at a story honestly when I pick it up again.  And I believe that’s probably one of the most important things for any writer to learn.  You have to learn to edit yourself – both for grammar as well as story structure/plotting. 

And I think everyone needs to learn to use reasoned criticism constructively.  It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is worthwhile.  I’ve got a few friends that I can turn to who will give me their honest opinions.  I don’t always like what they have to say, but I’ve learned to listen to it, think about it and then review my story again from their perspective.  That isn’t to say that a writer should just change their story because someone objects to something they’ve written.  I just mean that you shouldn’t discredit every bit of criticism simply because it conflicts with how you see the story. 

5. What question do you wish I had asked you and what is the answer to that question?

That’s a funny question.  Because, in all honesty, I don’t know that there’s really anything that I’d wish you would’ve asked me.  That’s mainly because I’m not sure what your readers might find interesting about me.   

One thing that I find difficult is self-promotion.  I know it’s part of getting your books out into the public consciousness when you’re self-publishing or working through a small, independent publisher.  But, I’ve always been uncomfortable with it. 
I’m happy to crack a joke or tell people about a book I’m reading or a movie I’ve seen.  (Recent books: The Missing by Sarah Langan and Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.  Recent movies: The Big Sick with Kumail Nanjiani, War for the Planet of the Apes with Andy Serkis, Wonder Woman with Gal Gadot, and The Autopsy of Jane Doe with Emile Hirsch.)  But, when someone asks me about my writing or how I’ve put something together or even which of my characters I like best, I struggle. 

Yeah.  A great deal of this is due to the fact that, at heart, I’m still kind of the shy kid I was in grade school.  I’m more than ready to admit that fact.  But, another reason is that I want my stories to speak for themselves.  I don’t really mind telling someone what one of my stories is about, but I don’t want to tell anyone what I think the story means or what I think of the story itself. 

In all honesty, I submit to that school of thought that, once I’ve finished a story and sent it out on its own, what I think of that story no longer matters.  At that point, it’s what the reader thinks that really matters.

So, I do hope people enjoy Love, Death and Other Lies.  Whether they take anything away from the story or not, I do hope they have fun while reading it.      




6. Dogs or Cats?  (It will be awesome if you would include a photo of your pet)

I can’t choose.  So, I have to say both.  I like the cool demeanor and independence of a cat, but I also love the loyalty and companionship of a dog. 
I’m a sucker for animals.  So is my wife and our daughter.  We currently have five cats and two dogs.  We collect strays.  Or, we did.  We’ve hit our limit. 
We started out with the cats.  At one time we had more, but we’ve lost a few over the years.  At the moment we have Tiny, Sophie, Mystery, Jazz and Bebe.   
The dogs?  Well, Honey was a present to my daughter from my in-laws. Samantha, my daughter, had been asking for a dog for years.  She begged and pleaded.  But, my wife and I weren’t too keen on the idea of adding another animal to the brood.  Then one day, out of the blue, my father-in-law brings us a little mixed breed pup. 
We couldn’t turn her away. And that’s how Honey became a member of the family.    
The second dog?  Well, Atticus was a present for Honey.
Yeah.  I know how that sounds. 
My daughter thought Honey needed a friend. Of course, I’m not sure Honey was thinking the same thing.  But, at that point, we figured – “Why not?”  So, we went out looking for a friend for Honey.  Now we have Atticus and he’s a member of the family.


How is Honey dealing with her new friend?  Well, Honey tolerates Atticus, much like my wife tolerates me.  So, all in all, it works out.        
Thanks Jerome for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on social media
On Twitter: On Twitter and his website
and check out his novel
Available at 


Love, Death and Other Lies
By Jerome Sparks
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller, Occult

During an ill-fated girls’ night out, still reeling from the loss of her husband, Liv Bestte meets a mysterious, old woman who promises to return her husband to her – for a price. It isn’t until the reanimated corpse of her late husband has begun terrorizing the hills and hollows around Julian, West Virginia, tearing flesh from bone, that Liv learns the price is her soul.

Now Liv is racing against time to find a way to satisfy this debt without sacrificing herself. And she soon learns that the only way she might escape her grisly fate is by offering up her daughter, Tegan, in her place.

But is it already too late for Liv? Is Liv’s fate sealed by family history? When Liv is about to make an ill-fated decision, it is Liv’s younger sister, Abby, who stands in her way, despite the fact that Abby was the first victim of the resurrected thing that was once Conner Bestte.



Available at 

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