September 17, 2014

Kings and Killers: an interview with Kit Power, author of "Lifeline"

When I'm not throwing my own opinion on horror fiction out here into the ether, I'm creeping over to Gingernuts of Horror to see what those fine folks have to say. One such folk, Kit Power, has been carving out quite the niche for himself on that blog--and elsewhere. He has a new novella out this summer, and a novel in the works for later in the year. When he reached out to me with a review request, I hit him up for an interview. So here you go ...

Gef: For you, where does the strength in the horror genre lie?

Kit: Well, firstly I think horror is a far broader church than most other people do. I think a lot of the works that get labelled as crime thrillers or psychological thrillers are really horror stories without ghosts. Jim Thompson is a good example of what I'm talking about here - the original ending of The Getaway is as dark a thing as you're ever likely to read. And James Ellroy does similar things. So there's the huge diversity of the genre, that's definitely a draw. Beyond that, in entertainment, we crave conflict, drama - books about people just bimbling along living happy productive lives... do those even exist? I've read a lot of books and I never read that story, because it's boring.I don't think many genres push that premise as hard as horror. Joss Whedon has described what he does as 'creating characters you really care about, then melting them' and King has said similar things. I think the strength of the horror genre is how hard it allows us as writers to push people, both within the story and the reader. I write primarily not to make people think but to make them feel. I've written in genres other than horror, but that's why almost all of my fiction is dark in some way, and why horror keeps drawing me back.

Gef: So you and James Newman spent the summer reminiscing about Stephen King's IT. One thing I noticed was James fawning over Doctor Sleep, which I thought was good and all, but "best thing he'd written in 20 years"? Really?

Kit: Heh. Well, first let me say James is a gent, and a very talented author whose skills I admire and whose company and expertise on this project I've been grateful for. That said, I've yet to read Doctor Sleep, so I can't confirm or refute his claim there. I can say I thought Under The Dome was one of the best things King has ever written full stop, and that's apparently a far more minority viewpoint within King fandom, so what the hell do I know? I think James was making a wider point about a return to supernatural horror, which I gather is his preference for King's work, but you'd have to ask him directly. Which you should, because he's a great guy and really good conversationalist about horror. :)

Gef: What's been the big draw to Stephen King for you, and what is or are his tentpole stories in your view?

Kit: The draw is just I think he's one of the best novelists working in the language, irrespective of genre. He is not just a massive influence for me in terms of style and prose, but he's one of the main reasons I write at all - I read a lot of his big works when I was probably slightly too young, and it just imprinted upon me. And reading 'On Writing' led directly to my abandonment of the pursuit of PS3 trophies and the firing up of my netbook word processor to get serious about creative writing. I mean, is he perfect? No, but neither is anyone. But I find him to be a stunning writer of people and situations.

As to tentpole works, well obviously IT is seminal for me, probably my personal favorite (maybe my all time favorite book, certainly the one I've read the most). The villain/monster is glorious, of course, but those kids, and the realisation of childhood - that stuff is untouchable, IMO. so for me, IT is the full package. After that, I'd say Pet Semetary is as dark as it gets, The Stand - I don't care for the ending, but the collapse is amazing, and again the characters really shine through for me, good and bad. Misery is fucking superb, and proof positive you don't need supernatural monsters to scare the living crap out of people. I personally love 'The Ledge' from I think Skeleton Crew, a perfectly constructed short story. The Shining. I thought Gerald's Game was bold as hell. Needful Things - God, that's hysterical, so darkly amusing, love it (thought I'm kind of annoyed whenever Castle Rock shows up in subsequent work - like, dude, you blew it up). Fair Extension from Full Dark, No Stars is gloriously bleak, and yeah, I'm the one who loved Under The Dome, sue me.

Gef: And how out of line is James Newman is for overlooking Cell? I liked Cell.

Kit: Heh. Cell was okay, but it's no Under The Dome... :D

Gef: Your novella, Lifeline, came out this summer. Care to give a bit of the ol' behind the scenes on what brought about a story about a man abducted by a psycho that wants to torture him to death?

Kit: Well, primarily I was taking King's advice to write about what scares you. Beyond that, it was a writing challenge, honestly - is torture pron still torture porn if it's seen from the victims POV? Could I write sustained physical horror like that without either grossing myself out or becoming boring? Beyond the opening premise, I had basically no idea what was going to happen in the story - it was a total leap in the dark, just to see what would happen. Gloriously, what happened was the 'victim', Frank, began to assert himself as a character, at which point, the whole thing pretty well flew.

When it comes to dealing a character who is clearly deranged, what pitfalls do you find yourself trying to avoid while presenting the character?

There's a couple of things I was conscious I wanted to avoid - I didn't want the villain to be Lecter. I'm kind of done with charismatic super-intelligent sadists/Nietzschian supermen, at this point, for a number of reasons. Sociopaths aren't normally that bright or that interesting, to be blunt. I think the other thing I wanted to convey is that even the worst bad guy doesn't think of themselves as a villain, really. There's that line in one of Neil Gaiman's Death comics where Death says 'Nobody is scary on the inside'. I believe that. So those were the perimeters I'd set myself. Beyond that, I wanted the torturer to be as ordinary as possible, almost bland. He's just someone who does not have the moral impulse that stops most people from hurting other people - that check mechanism is just absent from his brain. And, you know, he's bored...

Gef: You're a bit of a metal fan. Does that genre of music blend well with horror, if so why? And if not, what genre of music do you feel does?

Kit: I feel like they do go together, yeah. Metal is fairly extreme music, and it's often lyrically about exploring the darker elements of human behavior and emotion. There's obvious parallels with horror there. And of course a lot of metal bands drape themselves in horror imagery, or at least they did when I was growing up - Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden and Megadeth with the mascot album covers, WASP (especially The Headless Children, which I've written about as a horror album). I feel like Slipknot continue to fly that flag with how they dress on stage and a lot of their videos (man, I hope the new album doesn't suck!). It's a pretty snug aesthetic fit, I'd say.

Gef: What other irons do you have in the fire and where can folks keep up with your antics?

Kit: After indulging in a bunch of displacement activities, I've finally gotten back to the edits on my novel, which I'm still hopeful will be out this year. I've got a short story called Wide Load appearing in the upcoming Issue #6 of Splatterpunk 'Zine, which I couldn't be prouder about - seriously, it's been illustrated and everything, how fucking cool is that?!? I've also got a short story in the very-soon-to-be-released James Newman Benefit Anthology, Widowmakers, which is a huge honor. The TOC reads like a who's-who of contemporary indy horror, and I keep expecting they'll notice I snuck in there and yank the story - so buy it quick! :D Seriously, every penny will got to helping out James' family financially following his recent horrific accident, and it's going to be a belter of a collection. My debut e-novella, 'The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife (plus short story The Debt) is still available on Amazon via Black Beacon Books, and forms a thematic trilogy with Lifeline, so that's also worth checking out.

I've also got a monthly column on The Gingernuts Of Horror site - - where I ramble about the books, films, albums and events that shaped my love of dark fiction - I'm having a blast with this one, and getting really positive responses so far, which is encouraging. There's also the Amazon author page - - Facebook fan page - and occasionally updated blog - Oh, and the I-always-forget-to-plug-it mailing list - email kitpowerwriter[at]gmail[dot]com to get signed up for that - no more than a message a fortnight, no spam ever promise.

Oh, I also sing and write the lyrics for rumored death cult and semi-popular beat combo The Disciples Of Gonzo - . So there's that.

Gef: Thanks, Kit.

As for the rest of you, head on over to and enter for a chance to win a copy of Lifeline. The giveaway ends 2 weeks from now.

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