1. Who is HP Newquist?
A writer of horror fiction and strange non-fiction, a guitarist, and a human who is ruthlessly curious.
2. How and when did you get into writing?
I started writing short stories in high school, got a job after college writing about artificial intelligence, then found an agent and some publishers who liked my book ideas. Somehow I turned that into a writing career.
3. You write across very diverse areas, from science to music and, of course, horror. What attracts you to such different genres?
A lot of different things interest me, so I try to find ways to write about them. That gives me the opportunity to learn more about things like blood, chocolate, and robots while I’m doing research. Much of my writing leans toward the more macabre aspects of life, or the things we fear or find scary. So there are sea serpents in “Here There Be Monsters,” the origins of the vampire myths in “The Book Of Blood,” and the use of chocolate as part of Aztec human sacrifice in “The Book Of Chocolate.”
4. What does your writing routine look like?
Wait until the world is asleep and then start writing. That’s usually from about 11 PM to 2 or 3 AM. No one to bother me when it’s deep into the night. And the only sounds are those made by things that aren’t human.
5. Have you any strange writing habits?
The lateness of the hours I keep are probably strange for most people. I do need to have music playing, preferably hard rock or metal. I know many writers who need complete silence. I also like to have a bottle of wine or a pitcher of margaritas nearby, but that might not technically count as strange.
6. What’s the hardest thing about being an author?
The impostor syndrome. There’s always a desperate moment when you’re getting ready to start writing—a short story, a novel, an essay—when you realize that you don’t have any idea about what the hell you’re doing. You think you won’t be able to start it, let alone finish it, and those who are counting on you will discover you’re a fraud, an impostor. I have that moment with every single book I write, and I’ve written nearly 30.
Dan: I can certainly relate to that. Creativity seems to sit in that fine balance between self-confidence and self-doubt.
7. What is the best thing about being an author?
I think it’s the satisfaction of seeing something in print or online that emerged from deep inside your brain . . . and no one else’s. You can point to it when you are finished and say “I created that.” Beyond that, at least in some cases, writing credentials get you into places you normally wouldn’t be allowed to go: surgical suites, autopsy rooms, abandoned buildings. Wicked places that are supposed to be off limits to the world are often available to writers.
8. What attracts you to horror?
The infinite possibilities. There are so many ways to instill fear, dread, unease, and terror in people. The intriguing part is finding a way to do make it all work. Horror allows you to run rampant and wild—to go beyond the rational and real.
9. What’s your all-time favourite horror movie(s) and why?
Alien. There is not a moment in that movie that doesn’t fit perfectly in the story. The creature is sheer horror, the fate of the crew is horrific, and the building of suspense is masterful. Alien is a ride into places that none of us have ever been, seeing things we never imagined seeing. And no matter what, we get utterly freaked out every time the xenomorph comes onscreen.
Dan: That’s one of my favourites too. A movie you can return again and again too.
11. Best horror novel or novels and why?
My first inclination is to say “The War Of The Worlds,” by H.G. Wells, but I know a lot of readers feel that belongs firmly in the realm of sci-fi. So, I’ll veer towards supernatural horror—which is my favorite form of horror—and go with “The Shining,” by Stephen King. It’s his best work, his best writing, and his best plotting. It’s tension and terror from start to finish. And Chapter 36, which is the elevator chapter, is one of the eeriest pieces of writing ever put to paper. I’ll also throw in a novel most people have never heard of: “The Mysterious Stranger,” by Mark Twain. It’s about kids in a small town who befriend a boy who turns out to be the devil. A tremendous and unique story.
11. What are you currently reading?
For the past couple of years, I’ve committed myself to rereading horror classics. Typically, that means revisiting books I had not thought of in a long time, or those I wanted to experience again. Right now, that’s Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” on audio, and “Swan Song” by Robert McCammon in print.
12. If you could co-author a book with another author, alive or dead? Who would it be and what would it be about?
Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.” Channeling his intelligence and lunacy into the horror genre would likely produce something unlike anything ever written. He found extraordinary weirdness in the real world, so think what he’d uncover in the unseen world.
13. Which monster from fiction – books, TV or film – would you most like to be and why?
The Pontifex, who is the leader of the Cenobites from “Hellraiser” (often referred to as Pinhead). What’s not to like about a being who gets to move between worlds, and can summon demons and extreme horror at will? Plus, he definitely appears to enjoy his job.
Dan: Plus you’d get a dark wardrobe to go with it:)
14. What’s your spookiest life experience?
That’s a good question, in part because I have no good answer. I don’t think I’ve ever had a spooky experience. My favorite time of the day is the dark of night, and when you embrace that, it’s hard to get riled up about things like padlocked rooms or nocturnal cries in the forest.
15. Tell us about your most recent book, BEHEMOTH.
It begins with a car crash in a small rural town. Three boys die in the crash. That same night, people in the town begin disappearing. One at a time. Gossip spreads and townspeople claim there are rational explanations. But the seemingly normal village has a past that includes the disappearance of numerous children. People also whisper about a creature in the woods, a mysterious predator they believe was described in the Bible. The one person who tries to find an explanation discovers that he might be the next to disappear. That’s when unspeakable things start to happen.
16. Where did the idea for BEHEMOTH come from?
I like the idea of sinister entities that may or may not be real, especially if they have their origins in superstition. Even more so if people once embraced those superstitions and let them guide their lives. In addition, I grew up in New England, where you have lots of weird little towns that no one ever really notices. I wondered what it would be like if those towns hid something that could potentially be let loose on the rest of the world. BEHEMOTH explores that—and goes into some very dark places.
Dan: it’s a great premise and who doesn’t love small town horror?
17. What are your plans for the next year of writing?
I have a new book I’ve just finished called “The School Of Infinite Pain,” and we’ll see where that ends up. Then I have to do edits on two other books. No rest for the wicked, as they say.
18. What book of yours should people start with?
Definitely BEHEMOTH, since that’s my first horror novel. But some of my other books, especially THIS WILL KILL YOU, will give readers a look at other terrifying things I’ve explored and put on paper. For example, what happens to your body when you’re burned at the stake, or when you’re attacked by an alligator.
19. Where can people stalk you online like a serial killer?
There’s my website, which is www.newquist.net
Then the usual suspects:
20. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for this opportunity, Dan. And I hope people find BEHEMOTH to be a terrifyingly enjoyable read.
Dan: I hope they will too. I hear great things about BEHEMOTH. It made the 20 top compulsive summer reads on Kendall Reviews recently and I have it lined up on my TBR list too.