Ania Ahlborn’s new novel, The Neighbors, just came out, and her first novel, Seed, was a creepy (trust me on this one) hit! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and talk about her writing (and her Project Runway addiction), so please welcome her to the blog!
You discovered a love of writing at age 11! What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
It was an in-tandem story with my cousin—something about a really cool chick trying to choose between two really cool guys. I’m sure they were preteens, too. How hip! No, it was terrible. So terrible that I eventually “lost” the hundred-some-odd loose-leaf pages we’d stuck in a binder. In my adulthood, I kind of regret allowing my younger self to misplace that story; I’m sure it would be good for a laugh.
You are a self-published success story with SEED, which was discovered by Amazon and resulted in a 2-book deal! Will you tell us a bit about your newest novel, The Neighbors, and what inspired you to write it?
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of dangerous people blending in to society, and what’s more dangerous than a serial killer living next door? But let’s think about that for a minute… serial killers exist, and they’ve got to live somewhere. Ted Bundy was a charming guy with a disarming smile who worked a suicide hotline as a young adult. John Wayne Gacy owned a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. These people lived in everyday towns on everyday streets. They blended into society so well that when they were caught, all their neighbors could say was “he was such a nice, quiet man”. These people exist. I wanted to explore that.
What have been some of your biggest influences in your writing?
I wouldn’t say I really have any specific influences. I read books, I go to the movies, I listen to music, and every once in a while inspiration will strike. I have no idea when it’ll happen or what will trigger it, I just have faith that it’ll come. To give any one author or director or musician a higher spot on the totem pole of inspiration would be unfair, because I turn to all sources for that jolt of creativity.
What do you love most about horror, and why do you think people love being scared?
I’ve always been drawn to horror. When people ask me why, I really don’t know what to tell them. It’s just something that’s always been with me for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I adored Halloween. I still get giddy at the end of each September because October means I can play horror flick after horror flick just for the background noise… because there’s nothing like cooking dinner to a spooky soundtrack and a choir of screams. For me, horror holds the same nostalgia as old TV reruns hold for someone else. As weird as it sounds, it’s oddly comforting to curl up with a blanket and a mug of tea and watch Jason terrorize an entire town. But that’s why people love horror in the first place. It puts us in situations we can’t imagine but are strangely drawn to. Sometimes it asks us to reevaluate our beliefs, our morals, who we are as people and what we think is right and wrong. That, and it’s an adrenaline rush. Everyone loves a good jump scare now and again.
If you were going on vacation and could just take one book with you, which one would it be?
In the era of ebooks and having a virtual library of millions of books at WiFi’s beck and call, taking one book on a trip is thankfully a thing of the past. But if I could only take one, I’d probably take Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars. It’s a book of short stories, so it’s accessible unlike some of his thousand page epics. But it’s so dark and twisted… I could read those stories over and over again.
What are you reading right now?
I’m a finicky reader—I tend to jump from book to book and pick up where I left off months later. It’s weird, but when it comes to reading I can be like a kid on Ritalin. Right this second I’m reading Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel, which is a book about “Christmas terror”—appropriate for the season. I’ve been trying to plod through King’s It for months in the meantime.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I’m a Project Runway junkie. I’ve been rewatching all the seasons, but I think I’ve burned myself out after season four. I also love Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire… all of those shows are just fantastic. I also love baking, especially around the holidays. Any excuse I can find, I use. I tend to send treats to work with my husband. His coworkers never complain.
What do you love most about living in New Mexico? Where would you take someone visiting you there for the first time?
Full disclosure here: I don’t love living in New Mexico. I know I should probably make something up. “Oh, I love the sunshine!” but sunshine isn’t my thing. “Oh, I love the summers!” but anything above 75 degrees and I’m complaining about the desert. Quite honestly, I don’t belong here, but there are a few things I hold dear. There are some beautiful mountains out here—the tip of the Rockies. Sometimes the sunsets are incredible, and out here there’s nothing but sky. I love driving through the desert at night where there’s nothing but a strip of black tarmac ahead and the blip of a broken yellow line blurring beneath the tires. I love the scent of the air in winter—it smells like juniper and cedar wood burning in someone’s stove.
I’ve actually taken quite a few people around New Mexico in my day. We visit the small mountain town I grew up in, Ruidoso, before hitting White Sands National Monument. We take the tram to the top of the Sandia Mountains, drive up to Santa Fe and wander around the historic district.
So yeah… while I’m not in love with New Mexico, I do have feelings for it. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing other people, if you know what I mean.
What’s next for you in 2013?
Well, I believe my third book, The Shuddering, will be coming out in the summer, and I’m about to turn in my fourth manuscript to my editor any day now, which I’m hoping will make it out in late fall or early winter of next year. So that’s what it looks like on the publishing end. On the writing end, I’ll start working on another book in late January or early February. 2012 has been an incredible year. I’m hoping 2013 will be even better.
Keep up with Ania: Website | Twitter
With nothing but the clothes on his back — and something horrific snapping at his heels — Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in a trucker’s rearview mirror, he thought he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever.
Now, years later, the bright new future he’s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead.
Surviving a violent car crash seems like a miracle for Jack’s family, but Jack knows there’s nothing divine about it. The profound evil he uncovered as a boy has finally found him again. The thing that crouched at his bedside with soulless eyes and grinning, razor-sharp teeth is back with plans for Jack and his angelic youngest daughter, and a chilling promise: I’ve always been here, and I’ll never leave.
About THE NEIGHBORS:
Welcome to Magnolia Lane. It’s not exactly a little slice of heaven, but in the backwater town of Creekside, Kansas, it’s the best a jobless supermarket clerk like Andrew Morrison can do.
After sacrificing a normal childhood, a decent education, and true love to look after his alcoholic mother, he’s finally breaking free and living his own life — but in the squalid house he’s sharing with a former childhood friend, the living isn’t exactly easy. Plus, there’s something about the chipper, all-American couple next door that’s just downright creepy. However, that doesn’t keep Drew from accepting a job as their handyman — or surrendering to the wiles of perfect housewife Harlow Ward, a woman who always gets what she wants.
Drew, like a string of hapless young men before him, doesn’t realize he’s dancing with a devil — one dressed to the nines in high heels and pearls.