Here at the Library we’ve always had a huge, soft, dark spot on our hearts for young adult horror. That might be because I grew up in the years before it became the gigantic industry it is today, or it might be because when it comes my fiction-writing heart, YA is my jam. But whatever the case, the Library fully endorses and champions teen (and children’s) terror tomes.
Today, we welcome our first YA author to #31 Days of Halloween: Dave Simms.
Dave wears a lot of hats, he’s a special education teacher, college English instructor, counselor, music therapist, and book reviewer, he moonlights in the Slushpile band on lead guitar with F. Paul Wilson, Heather Graham, David Morrell and Alexandra Sokoloff, which performs across the country promoting literacy. His short stories have been published in various anthologies, such as Terrible Beauty, Traps!, Chimeraworld and Darkness Rising. His first novel, the young adult musical fantasy adventure, Dark Muse, was released by Melange Books last year and is now being taught in at least seven schools and is on the reading list at two universities. Currently,he is seeking representation for his historical thriller about the eugenics movement in America and is completing work on the sequel to Dark Muse and a supernatural thriller for adults.
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31 Days of Halloween… with Dave Simms
Describe a time when a scene in a horror novel really unnerved you.
I’ll steer clear of the obvious answers here and go for something personal. I’m a huge F. Paul Wilson fan, both of his Repairman Jack and “other” novels. Normally, he steers clear of the outright disturbing, but in Reprisal, there is a scene that forces the reader to allow him/herself straight into the fear that Wilson imagines through the character’s eyes. A boy is involved (if you’ve read the Adversary Cycle, you know where I’m going – if not, why not? Do it now!) and it becomes one of the most chilling scenes ever. Possibly it works so well because Wilson has drawn the characters so well that you really do know them, see them as you would your neighbours, friends, family. Then he goes and pulls this scene. Actually, there are two. One is how the father dies. It will stick with you like it did to me. The writing is so invasive, but not overly descriptive, that it tears from your mind the worst images to complete the scene the author has created.
In your opinion, what is the all-time scariest horror novel or short story?
No question about this (again, one that is purposely off the beaten path). Son of the Endless Night by John Farris. A possession novel that is much more than that, a thriller that weaves its way through the soul of the reader in such a way that nightmares are inevitable. There were nights when I just wasn’t strong enough to read it. To me, it’s more frightening than The Exorcist. Something about the narrative Farris writes sticks like blood to the soul and decades later, I still refuse to re-read it.
What’s the scariest scene and/or book you yourself have written?
My scariest scene that I have written is in my upcoming novel, Fear the Reaper, which is about the eugenics movement in the early 20th century. The main character is forced to go through some of the same procedures that the patients in the asylum underwent, which actually occurred on a daily basis up until the 1970’s. I spoke to several former patients, even one who survived a lobotomy and described the process from a victim’s point of view. I drank plenty of Kraken during that book. Also, I give historical ghost tours of the place in the fall so yeah, I’ll be headed for the abyss soon. 4.
Your top three fears?
1. Claustrobia. Cannot go into tight places. Hiked through the lava tubes under Mount St. Helens years ago and still get anxiety over the memories.
2. Sharks – yes, Jaws was that influential.
3. Psychotic women I’ve dated (yes, men are probably worse), ever since one tried to murder me (true story).