Is it fair to say that Within the Fog is your first work of non-fiction? Tell us how you came to write it.
Within the Fog is the first work of non-fiction that I decided I wanted to publish. It really came into being over many years conceptually. I have always loved stories that involved the mystery of an evil element that resides in a fog bank. The movie The Fog by John Carpenter, Stephen King’s The Mist, and The Taking by Dean Koontz all were great in their own way, but I always wondered why no one made the connection between vampires and fog. I kept thinking eventually someone would write a scary novel in which a fog bank invaded a small town and there were vampires hunting the townspeople from the fog. After many years I decided I would write it myself.
What made you use the Horror genre to tell the story?
I grew up fascinated by Stephen King and horror stories. I can remember reading The Shining as a teenager and marvelling at how captivated I was by the book. I love horror that has an aspect of mystery or apocalyptic elements and I tried to bring these concepts to Within the Fog.
You have had a substantial career as an academic, educator and more. What inspired you to become a writer? How do you combine writing with your day-job?
I have heard more than one educator refer to the teaching profession as storytelling, or entertaining. I know that my audience as a teacher will not be receptive to what I am telling them, if they don’t first engage with me. I need be interesting or entertaining to truly be effective in the classroom to get learners of any age to engage with content. I had always wanted to take that story telling ability and use it to create written fiction. I found as I wrote my way through my master and doctoral degrees that I didn’t have the time to focus on writing fiction. Once I completed my education, I decided it would never happen if I didn’t make time for it. So, in a sense, my fiction writing has just replaced the time I spent in the past on academic writing. Now, in my evenings and weekends I’m usually in front of my computer working on one story or another. In my day job, I still occasionally teach which aids me creatively. Many of the interactions I have or observe spark a thought or an idea.
The tag-line for Within the Fog is “Can you escape the rage?” What is the significance of rage in the narrative?
In Within the Fog the antagonist, Croatoan, uses the anger in people to manipulate them. He wants to consume them, but he can’t unless he can get them to come outside or let him inside. To accomplish this, he gets inside of their minds and uses the anger they have with others. I wanted to use this concept in the novel because I have noticed life’s greatest manipulators prey heavily on the negative emotions of others. Croatoan is a predator and he pushes buttons to get what he wants. Escaping the rage is about people escaping their own anger.
On one level the story is about a supernatural threat - vampires - but the blurb hints that the characters may be in greater danger from their inner demons. Please tell us more about that.
The inner demons that people have in their relationships. In the novel there are issues in the Benton family. Sandy Benton holds a grudge with her husband Tom. Tom doesn’t trust Sandy fully. Bobby Benton, their son, has anger with his parents because he feels they aren’t letting him grow up. Under pressure those issues rise to the surface in the novel and Croatoan preys on those emotions.
What challenges does a fictional book raise, compared with non-fiction?
I have also written and published non-fiction, Walking Softly. I find non-fiction a little more challenging. With fiction, I can dictate interactions between characters, their relationships etc. Non-fiction needs to be a reflection, or regurgitation of the truth which requires much heavier research. To me, as a writer, it is easier to have that control than to not.
How do you see your readers? Who will enjoy Within the Fog?
My readers are people like me. They enjoy a good tale. They enjoy that creepy feeling you get when you hear a noise late at night and you know there has to be a rational explanation for it, but – What if? What if I forgot to lock the door? What if it’s not just the wind blowing tree branches against the side of the house? We all know vampires aren’t real. But what if they are? What would I do? What if I found myself locked in my home with a powerful enemy outside hiding inside a shroud of fog?
What horror writers do you enjoy and are there any you feel have been overlooked or forgotten?
My all-time favourite is Stephen King. I enjoy Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, Brian Keene, Craig DiLouie and many others. Craig’s work is fantastic, and I feel should get more publicity. I highly recommend The Infection.
Tell us about the Benton family, Tom, Susan and young Bobby. Who are they and what makes them tick?
They are your typical US country living family. Very conservative, tending to their own business and working on their family and their relationships. They value each other more than anything else but have struggled to overcome some of their issues. Tom is a work from home father and husband who is living his dream of a life in the country. He had to talk his wife Sandy into the move from the city to the small town in the country. Sandy is a loving wife and mother, but she feels inferior to her husband. She has issues with depression and feels that Tom holds that over her head to maintain power in their relationship. Bobby knows more of the family dynamic than either of his parents think. He also harbours resentment for his parents because he feels they are dismissive of him. He wants to be heard and taken seriously. When Bobby is the first of the family to encounter Croatoan, his parents dismiss his insistence that Croatoan is real as him having nightmares. The bitterness that lingers in the family does not help them as the crisis develops.
Do you have a favourite character?
I really like a couple of characters in Within the Fog. I like Tom because he wants to protect his family, but the emergency with Croatoan is not the emergency he has prepared for all his adult life. He is stuck. He wants to lead them out of trouble but struggles with how he can do it. I also like Sin, who is a neighbour of the Benton’s. Sin is a teenage boy who struggles with family dynamics, and an abusive father. He is highly intelligent, has a lot to offer but has always lived under the thumb of his father. As circumstances develop, Sin is able to come out of his shell a little.
Can you tell us something about Croatoan?
Croatoan hates humanity, although he was once human. We don’t know much of Croatoan’s past just yet, although we know his wife cheated on him many hundreds of years before. He doesn’t just like to consume humans because he needs them, but also because he enjoys the fear that he creates by playing with their minds. He wants to punish. He has so much rage bottled up inside of himself that he loves feeling the anger and fear in others. As the series progresses, we will get a better look at the history of Croatoan.
You mention historical occurrences of mass disappearance, such as that in Roanoke Island, Virginia in 1587. Why do these stories continue to fascinate us, and do you have any theories as to what happened?
I think that deep inside we all love a great mystery and adventure. Horror is a safe way to accomplish that. With something like the disappearances of the colonists at Roanoke Island, I think people gravitate to the mysterious circumstances due to the added element of reality. How did 115 people disappear leaving no trace as to what happened or where they went? Adding horror as well as a fictitious explanation to historical reality is intriguing. I believe that most likely, the people at Roanoke made an attempt by ship to return to England and were lost at sea, or they were taken elsewhere by the area natives and never heard from again. I can personally never get enough of those historical realties.
Will there be a sequel to Within the Fog, or are you working on something else?
I have new novel coming out soon titled Hunted. It is finished and will come out before the follow up to Within the Fog which I am currently writing. The follow up book is titled Rage. Hunted is a story within a story. An older gentleman tells his life story to a younger woman (a stranger) during a sunny afternoon on a park bench. His story is about his life on the run from an unknown evil. Many attempts have been made on his life by different people who all seem to have several things in common. As the afternoon fades into evening the reader discovers there is more at play between the old man and his companion than simply telling a story. Rage is book 2 of the 3-book series and takes up where Within the Fog leaves us. It will offer a further historical look at Croatoan as well as the ongoing issues of the present. I get a lot of questions about Tom, Sin, Sandy and Bobby from readers. By the end of Rage most of those questions will be answered.
What do you enjoy most about writing - and what do you enjoy least?
I enjoy the creativity. I love it when readers email me. We have many people who have joined our early reader club on our website (withinthefogbook.com) and I interact with them frequently. I get varied reactions to the dilemma in Within the Fog and enjoy them all. My least favourite part is just being limited by time. In addition to my day job and my family, writing also comes with the logistical issues of writing. Such as promotions, the technical aspects of running a website, blog posts etc. I sign every book sale that comes directly through the website to a specific reader and it all takes time. At the present I have a very smart IT professional running most of that, but I still have my responsibilities and I respond to all communications from readers personally.
What books are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m finishing the Dean Koontz Jane Hawk series, The Night Window. Great series, of course its Koontz, so that’s what I have come to expect with him. If I could sit and have a conversation with him or Stephen King I would have a million questions.
Horror is about confronting fear (amongst other things). Is that true and what else explains its enduring appeal?
I think it’s about confronting fear and how we would react under similar circumstances. I think all of us are drawn to danger to one extent or another. Even the least adventurous of us still read articles about tragedy and terrible happenings. I think we can’t help ourselves. Curiosity is a part of our makeup. Many of us enjoy a good scare, and then once its over, the book or movie or whatever provided that feeling, we get to safely return to our normal lives and be grateful that vampires are not one of the real things that go bump in the night.