Just in time for the holidays,THE DARK SERVANT, Matt Manochio’s chillfest, featuring Krampus, is out, and he kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about the new book, and more! Please give him a warm welcome.
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little more about The Dark Servant and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you for asking. The Dark Servant focuses on a European folk-legend named Krampus. Back in the day in Austria, Saint Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus) rewarded the good children with gifts. He farmed out the bad ones to Krampus, a huge, chain-wielding devil that kidnaps and punishes the naughty. I had never heard of this creature until a couple of years ago and loved the concept. There’s little commercially published Krampus fiction on the market (compared to numerous non-scary teenage vampires, and ridiculously hunky werewolves from the Pacific Northwest) and I saw an opening. Many in the horror community know Krampus, but not so much the general reading public. I’ve asked numerous people whether they’ve heard of Krampus, and the overwhelming answer is “no.” I hope to change that. My Krampus invades a rural New Jersey town and goes after its high school bullies. My protagonist, Billy, realizes this thing kidnapped his brother (a golden boy) and attempts to rescue him, while trying to understand what brought Krampus to town in the first place.
What made you decide to make your protagonist, Billy, so young?
Krampus, like Saint Nick, deals with children, so it made sense to make my protagonists (and antagonists) teenagers. While the novel is written for adults, I believe it has high school-aged crossover appeal.
I love the idea of a novel about Krampus (just in time for the holidays too!) What kind of research did you do for the book?
Internet research: great websites like www.Krampus.com helped shape my understanding of the legend. There was a wonderful New York Times story from the 1940s about fascist Austria banning Krampus for inane reasons—I worked that into the book. Good times.
Did you begin writing The Dark Servant already knowing what was going to happen?
Great question. At first, no. In general, I get a rough idea in my head about how I think a book should end, and then I write. I don’t outline. To me the fun is sitting in front of the screen and letting the words fly. As I go along the story starts to take shape and the ending solidifies.
You have a degree in journalism (and history), and spent 12 years as a journalist, but have you always wanted to write a novel? Will you tell us a little about that progression?
Yes. I think every journalist has a book in them, and my first one began taking shape in 2007. I wrote a straight crime thriller and sold it to a now-defunct publisher in 2010. I was never paid my advance and withdrew the manuscript. As frustrating as that was (it sucked) it proved to me that I could produce something that could commercially sell. And I kept at it—to the point where I got the idea to write The Dark Servant in 2012 and turned it around in very short time (five months), sent it to my editor and got an offer in May 2013. Being a municipal reporter, you understand how government, the police, and the court system all work (nothing like on television), and I tried to bring that level of reality to my book. But for the fictional horned monster that kidnaps bad children, the book is steeped in reality.
Why horror? What do you love most about writing, and reading, in the genre?
This might sound sacrilegious, but I don’t consider myself a horror writer. I’ve read more Michael Crichton and Dave Barry books than I have Stephen King (I’m a big fan of his, too, and Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite novels, ever). The fun part about writing horror, especially the supernatural kind, is you can stretch the bounds of reality. Reading is an escape, but so it writing it.
What do you look for in a good story? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
I can’t define any one attribute that I look for in a good story. Just so long as it keeps me engaged and doesn’t meander—that’s crucial. Very seldom do I not finish a book. I can’t think of one that I put down with no intention of completing. I loved Justin Cronin’s The Passage, but was disappointed with its sequel, The Twelve. I felt it was too long and overwritten, confusing because of its many characters who I kept losing track of, and, sorry to say it, boring. But I read it more out of an obligation to finish it. (And I likely will read and finish the final book in the trilogy when it comes out.)
What’s something that you find truly terrifying?
Reality. Not knowing what the future holds for my toddler son and wife. It’s a scary world: Ebola, terrorism, the high cost of living.
Without thinking about it too much, if someone were to ask you for a recommendation of a scary book, what would you recommend (other than your book, of course)?
Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. That’s the first book that ever made me nervous while reading.
What are you currently reading?
Five Chimneys, by Olga Lengyel, her holocaust survival biography.
What’s next for you?
By the time this publishes, I’ll have submitted revisions to my editor for what I hope will be my second book with Samhain Publishing. I’ll be guest blogging on several sites (thanks for letting me on yours) throughout November and December. And come the 2015, it’s back to writing a third book, and I’m already 20,000 words in.
About DARK SERVANT:
Santa’s not the only one coming to town…
It has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in the snow.
Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes on December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy’s devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, endangering his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why supposedly innocent high school students have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint’s ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.