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Takin’ It To The Grave

A Peek Behind the Eyes of a Horror Writer: R. A. Evans

*Whispers*: Shhhhhhhh. No, no. Don’t struggle, you’ll only make it worse. They’re iron shackles, Mr. Evans. Pretty sure your futile twisting isn’t going to accomplish much. Now, focus. Over here in the corner. There ya go. Hiya! Nice bow tie. *finger wave* Christ, you’re pale. Didn’t see any heart problems when I hacked into your medical records, but I suppose under the circumstances …*ahem* 

Mr Evans, look past the furnace to the cellar stairs, if you would, please. See that hatch? You’re probably thinking it leads to freedom. You want that, don’t you? Wanna play “guess who holds the keys to your chains”?–gosh, you’re quick, even when you’re hyperventilating. *steps under the single swinging lightbulb* You needn’t stare at the work bench like that; I hardly think I’ll need tools to get what I want from you. Unless you’re going to make me work for it tonight? … Settle down, bronco, that was not an invitation to resume bucking. Golly–threats from a man in a tight spot like this? Afraid that won’t get you far. *shakes her head sadly* And if you spit at me again, I’m gonna have to put the gag back in. Here’s what we’re gonna do: I’m going to ask you a few simple questions. You’re going to tell me what I want to hear. Then I can set you free. Now, close your eyes. Relax. This won’t hurt much. Cross my little black heart and hope to rot.  

            Spill your secrets, Mr. Evans … I’ll take ’em to the grave.

AJ: Give us a little synopsis of AsylumLake. It’s a horror novel, correct? Well of course it is, or you’d never have ended up here. *innocent smile* Tell us a bit about the story.

RA: Asylum lake is a story about the power of memories – especially those of the dark and sinister variety – and how they can attach themselves to places and things waiting for you to return. The memories in my story involve an abandoned asylum, a nefarious doctor, and three generations of the Tanner family. Asylum Lake is a tragic story of loss – with plenty of chills, blood, and even some humor mixed in. The mysteries of Asylum Lake run deep – and beneath its sparkling surface the unremembered have grown restless.

AJ: Do you think you’re more sensitive to the horrors of every day life … or desensitized to things that might shock others? Generally speaking: are horror writers harder to scare? 

RA:I actually think horror writers are easier to scare – we tend to find darkness and tragedy in what are otherwise normal surroundings. I, for one, tend to look at life through a dark filter. I have a very healthy fear of the unknown. Anything from what lurks under my bed when I shut the lights off, to what the neighbor next door does behind closed doors – it’s all unknown. As a writer, I just like to fill in those blanks. Writing, to me, is like a Mad-Libs on steroids.

AJ: Do you remember the last thing/situation to make your blood run cold, to make your heart hammer, to fire off that fight-or-flight?

RA:I was awakened a few nights ago by a dream that involved finding a headless corpse in my bathtub. It all felt so real. I laid there in my bed for the longest time, afraid to go check the bathroom.  Ever since I’ve been trying to recreate that feeling of fear with my current project.

AJ: Are you a fear junky? Do you enjoy feeling frightened?

RA: Definitely. Very few things come close to the rush that fear provides. That being said, I am also quite possibly the worlds biggest wuss, so I don’t push my fear limits very often…or far.

AJ: So you’re a ginormous pussy. Gotcha. (I’ll put that box of fat, juicy nightcrawlers away in a sec.) I know where and when my random “what ifs” usually pop up, let’s see if you’ll be brutally honest with us: where do your “what ifs” occur most often?

RA: My best “what ifs” occur while watching television. 

AJ: OK, so totally not what I was expecting.

(What I was expecting, or some version thereof —->)

(side note: One wonders how many new shower curtains a gal can buy in a month before her husband calls the men in the white coats?) 


RA: I had a great “what if” while watching American Idol last week. “What if the zombie apocalypse started with Ryan Seacrest in the middle of the show. How many people could he devour/infect before the camera’s stopped running?”

AJ: I think zombie Ryan Seacrest (AKA Ryan Z-crest) would be even more annoying than he is now, fly-speckled guts flapping out and all. Dude, a classy gentleman tucks in his shirt AND his entrails. That’s Style 101. 

AJ: Asylum Lake has religious undertones: the priest, the Parting of the Veil … are you a fairly spiritual person? Do you believe in a ghost, spirit or soul that lives on? Do you have the devil on speed dial? 

RA: I’m not a fan of organized religion but do consider myself a spiritual person– 

AJ: Hold on a sec …. *sneers into cell phone* So that’s why you won’t answer my texts, because you’re busy with this jaggoff? Nice, Lucifer. Reeeeal nice. *hangs up* Sorry you had to hear that, Mr. Jagg–err, Evans. You were saying?

RA:  –I think George Lucas was rather spot on with his take on the whole thing – there is a “force” that lives within each of us. Whether it’s a soul or not is anybody’s guess.  As for ghosts and spirits, I believe we all leave pieces of us behind when we die. Some of those pieces are just darker and angrier than others.

AJ: Dark and angry pieces need lovin’ too. Like this fellah, though I think I’ll love him from afar. So, describe to me your mindset at a funeral. As a writer, are you taking mental notes?  

RA: I can’t say that I’m taking mental notes, but I do try to draw on all of my experiences when writing. There is a lot to be learned from how people express their emotions – especially grief.

AJ: Was there a scene in AsylumLake that you found especially challenging to write, or that kept you awake at night?

RA: Without revealing any spoilers – there is a childbirth scene in the back of an ambulance that gave me fits. It was tough to write for a variety of reasons. I must have re-written it half a dozen times. I’m still not completely happy with where it landed – but I was too worried about pushing the envelope with it. I’d love to hear some feedback from readers. I’m sure they know exactly which scene I am referring to.

 AJ: I remember it vividly. Did you have any moments in the creation of a particular character during which you upset/disturbed yourself?

RA: Dr. Wesley Clovis is a pretty disturbing guy.  His bloody handiwork is mostly only hinted at in Asylum Lake – it’s not until Grave Undertakings that readers will get to see just how creepy the guy really is. There were a few times that I even freaked myself out a bit. He was a blast to write, however.

AJ: How much like you is your protagonist, Brady Tanner? How long has he been rattling around inside your head?

RA: Brady is entirely me – but from 10 years ago.   I’m nearing forty and feeling even older. Brady’s almost thirty yet still hip and cool.  He gets to say and do all of the things I wish I had the courage to. The best part of writing Brady was all of the little anecdotes I sprinkled throughout the book. It’s a sneak peek into my own warped world.

AJ: In his song Misery’s the River of the World , Tom Waits wrote: “If there’s one thing you can say about mankind, there’s nothing kind about man.” There are a few characters in Asylum Lake that definitely illuminate Waits’ point. What sort of struggles does this present to Brady Tanner, his mindset and his resolve?

RA: Brady is grieving the loss of his pregnant wife and is teetering on the edge of his own pit of darkness. As the secrets from his family’s past begin to surface he is confronted with the knowledge that he shares some very disturbing similarities with the story’s antagonist – Ellis Arkema.  Asylum lake is a story of loss — loss of love, of life, and in many ways loss of one’s sanity. Brady is dealing with all of these things – as well as supernatural elements with a taste for blood.

AJ: Fear and sex seem to go hand in hand in the horror genre, in both novels and movies. What do you think is at play there, and what is your strategy for managing sex scenes in your work?   

RA: Sex can be used to depict a character’s strength or vulnerability.  It can be used as a weapon, a punishment or sometimes even as reward.

AJ: Better reward than Alpo snacks.

RA: It’s carnal and physical – full of lust and raw emotion.  Asylum Lake has a very tender sex scene. Grave Undertakings opens with a hospital orderly diddling the still warm corpse of a patient. Both are powerful elements which are integral to the overall story.

AJ: Sorry, I’m still snort-giggling about “diddling a warm corpse” … ah, the follies of youth and the raging excitement of new love. Wait, what? I mean … dude, that’s sick! 

RA: Much like comedy, however, it’s a challenge to write sex in a believable manner. Too easy to make things sound like a Letter to Penthouse Forum.

AJ:  I’m sure I wouldn’t have a CLUE what that is. *batting eyelashes*

One last thing, Mr. Evans, before I unleash you upon the world again. *slow, wicked grin* On the table behind me, you will notice a Gransfors Bruks forest axe. Very nice, yes? You’ll also see a 3 lb ball pein hammer, a handheld oscillating bone saw, piano wire, neoprene gloves, a box cutter and an ErgoHunter Avid buck knife. You’ll have 30 seconds and one shot to finish me off. *dangles the keys to the shackles on one finger* What one item do you choose?

RA: The box cutter, of course. The first slice will take your tongue. I like my women quiet. Then your eyelids – no closing your eyes and wishing this away as a nightmare. I want to watch the life drain from you.

*unlocks her captive and steps back, whipping two pickle forks from her pockets.*

Most excellent. You want my tongue, Mr. Evans? By all means, come and take it, if you can. *plays pickle forks adeptly across her knuckles*

                                       And may the best horror writer win. 

(Author’s note: R. A. Evans is the author of the delightfully wicked horror novel Asylum Lake, available here Check out Mr. Evans’ blog at  or follow him on Twitter @raevanswrites–found lurking now and then in #pubwrite–for upcoming news on his work. I’d like to thank Rich–Thanks, Bow Tie!–for being such a great sport. I’d also like to remind my readers that banter between writers is fraught with fictional elements, especially on this blog. I encourage my readers to check back for the launch of R.A. Evans’ next book, Grave Undertakings, in the near future.)

(Editor’s note: AJ Aalto carries pickle forks in her coat pocket, but only for the same reasons all the other pickle-fork-wielding maniacs do. Extreme caution should be used in approaching this woman after dark; while tiny and quick with a disarming smile, she’s most likely imagining what you’d look like without any clothes. Or eyes.)

(Author’s note: AJ Aalto is royally insulted by the above accusation and has the following to say about it: “Editor” can take a flying leap backward and sommersault head-first up her own ass.)

(Editor’s note: Being that “editor” and “author” are the same person, “author” may wish to rethink that last statement.)

(Author’s note: No. No. No, “author” does not wish to rethink that last statement. In-fucking-fact, “author” would like to reiterate said statement, add a hearty nah-nah-na-boo-boo, and end blog abruptly, thereby denying “editor” the last word.)

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7 Responses to Takin’ It To The Grave

  1. Heather says:

    Oh maybe I’ll stick little clown toys in your pockets 😉 I hear you love clowns…..just remember I bite. You stab me and I bite you…clear and simple. I have ways to defend myself. I can call my attack trained…er…ah…parrot? Ya…that’s it. Baloo will fly out of his cage and attack! Take that crazy woman!

  2. Heather says:

    Mr Evans- I have known AJ a long time and I have never “seen” her hurt a human being. Not to say that she hasn’t or wouldn’t….but I know she did have a cat that went missing once 😉

  3. Heather says:

    AJ…should I be frisking you for pickle forks when you enter my home from now on?

  4. R. A. Evans says:

    Thanks for your comments. AJ made this a lot fo fun. Heather – can you define unharmed? I feel my sanity has been badly damaged but physically I am relatively unscathed.

  5. Heather says:

    Wow that was an awesome interview. Not only did you creep the crap out of me, but Mr Evans has some great advice. Its nice to hear writing from another Author’s point of view. Well one that isn’t as insane as YOU AJ!! I learned my lesson to never ask you what your thinking…maybe I shoudl try “Whatch got in your pocket?” as an alternative?
    All in all I was intrigued and amused by this….one question. Did Mr Evans escape unharmed and with all his limbs or does he currently lay still in your cellar with a pickle fork in his eye?

  6. This is SO not my kind of material – but it’s obvious you know your stuff, and are VERY good at interviews, as well.

    This must have been, as you said, a lot of fun….

  7. al boudreau says:

    Allie, and Rich…by far, one of the best, most creative, interviews I’ve read…ever. Great job!

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