The following interview is with Vince Churchill, author of By the Light of the Silvery Moon in The Beast Within.
Hi, Vince. Could you start us off with a little info about yourself? We here on the forums are so used to seeing text and avatars that it can be easy to forget there are human beings behind the words. What's a day-in-the-life-of-Vince Churchill like?
A: Hey guys. Well, I'm a 46 year old horror geek that's been writing stories for most of my life. I'm a fan of horror, sci-fi, martial arts, action films, and old Marvel comics, which I incorporate elements of into my writing all the time.
Well, an average day for me is heading off to my day job at my old high school, Jacksonville High School. I used to supervise the all day internal suspension, but this school year I do a little of everything, kinda filling in the cracks?smile. Right after school I head to football practice, where I help coach the freshman team. The evenings are spent having dinner and conversation with my beautiful wife, and depending on the night, either watching some football, or a favorite show like Lost, Burn Notice, Sons of Anarchy, or Life. Occasionally, I get a little writing done too. Usually Monday through Wednesday nights I'm working on my weekly newspaper column, which appears Sundays in the Jacksonville Journal Courier newspaper. Otherwise, I'm working on my current novel, Good Night My Sweet, or a novella I'm revising for publication next year.
As a writer, what do you find is the most challenging part about crafting fiction, and how do you overcome it?
A: For me, the biggest challenge is prioritizing projects. I have so many ideas I want to bring to life, but as a novelist the time investment is such that you can't really afford to make a mistake about which idea to work on for months. As I was finishing up the first draft of my current novel, I was already starting the mental sweepstakes for the next one. It took me most of the summer to decide which idea to pursue, but I've settled that and I'm totally jazzed to get into it. I've learned that it's better for me to let the ideas simmer, then battle it out in the back of my mind until the winner steps forth, than to force the issue, or choose what I think might be the most marketable, or what might be "hot" a couple years down the road, etc. And odds are, if I live long enough, the runner up idea will eventually find itself getting written?smile.
What initiated your interest in the horror genre?
A: Well, my mom got me started on those old black and white thrillers, then the horror flicks of the seventies such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Jaws, The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead, and Halloween took hold and never let go. Then Stephen King just dotted the i and crossed the t.
Any personal experiences where you might've felt like a character in a horror novel?
A: Totally, but the stories are better told campfire style?ha ha ha. I will say that one was a classic Halloween graveyard experience, and the other occurred with a group of friends in an old camper. Some of my buddies will never let me forget my classic line, "No spider threw that rock!"
Is there a specific aspect of the genre that is particularly appealing to you?
A: I love the unlimited range and lack of boundaries of horror. Originality is difficult, but it's not hard to twist the every day into something very unsettling. I like forcing readers to see what I want them to see, feel what I want them to feel. I particularly love blending genres, especially horror and action, like in the films Dog Soldiers, Brotherhood of the Wolf, or Grindhouse's Planet Terror. Writing horror or dark fiction is like being the creepy guy who operates the scary ride at the traveling carnival. I really dig that position of controlling the ride, which is the great challenge of entertaining readers.
Writer's block strikes sooner or later; are there any home remedies or writing exercises you use to stave off the dreaded curse?
A: Honestly, I've never had writer's block, (knocking on wood) and I hope I never do. For me, it all lies in the passion for what you're writing. If you're not stoked as a writer to create, how can you expect readers to get excited about the finished product? My relationship with my writing is about the same as Cartman's relationship with cheesy poofs. I just crave it all the time. I'm a writing junkie.
When the submission call went out for Beast Within, what was the first idea that came to mind? What made you choose the were-creatures in your story?
A: Well, I got a little lucky. I had a story already written for an anthology that lost its publisher just waiting for a home, and it just happened to be a werewolf story. I grew up a huge comic book fan, and I'd had an idea for a werewolf version of Blade forever. I just thought it would be cool to have a Batman-like superhero that used his curse to combat other supernatural creatures, but especially other werewolves. "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" was born, and a possible novel and screenplay are on my writing "to-do" list.
Where can we see more of your work?
A: Well, if you live on L.A. or San Fran, my books are on the shelves of Dark Delicacies in Burbank or Borderland's in San Francisco. Readers can check out my novels and some of the recent anthologies I appear in on Amazon.com. I have two novels: The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth, which is an outer space horror tale involving a group of mercenaries doing a job for the government that goes backed up toilet bad. There's plenty of nightmarish action, and zombies make an appearance during the final quarter of the book. The Blackest Heart is my futuristic nod to High Plains Drifter, The Crow, and Spawn. It's also set in outer space but has a distinct western feel, and I think the collection of villains the resurrected hero is up against is the book's major plus. It's a lot of fun. Both books were written for adults, so expect heavy doses of imaginative violence and sexuality. Also, despite the pulp nature, both books have very strong female characters. That's what happens when you grow up digging Emma Peel of the Avengers, Vasquez from Aliens, and being a fan of Adrienne Barbeau.
Hopefully in 2009 my latest novel Good Night My Sweet, and novella Condemned will be in readers' hands, along with an appearance in an anthology or two.
Could you give us a non-spoiler synopsis of your story By the Light of the Silvery Moon?
A: Well, it's about a superhero werewolf called Lunar, who, as his career is at an end, is trying to track and destroy a pack of werewolves preying on Los Angeles. He has one last chance to destroy them, but a major complication turns his mission into a journey far more personal and perilous than he ever planned on.
A: Thank you Matt & GST for giving "By The Light of the Silvery Moon" the opportunity to be in such a great anthology; and for me having a chance to reach out to the readers.
And now, here's an excerpt of By the Light of the Silvery Moon from The Beast Within:
BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON, BY VINCE CHURCHILL
Beams from the bright full moon highlighted his broad, V-shaped back, revealing a road map of scars. He focused on the routine he'd completed exactly one hundred times, done precisely as he'd been instructed eight years before.
He handled the items gently, his thick fingers treating them as fragile, priceless heirlooms, despite their obvious durability.
Folded out of sight at the bottom of the faded green steamer trunk was his short cape. During his initial introduction to the role, Van Dyke had thought it a silly add-on to a geek's role playing costume. It attached at each shoulder by a small pair of strong plastic alloy clips. Once on, the black and gray cape hung to the middle of his back.
Perched on top of the cape was a pair of dull black boots. Looked to be made of black supple leather, the boots were specially constructed from a material able to accommodate the severe physiological changes of his curse. He took a deep breath, held it a moment, then let it leak out. Nearly a decade later and he was still not completely comfortable with the transformation, controlled or not. Knee high, the boots were secured with a series of small buckle clamps lining the front.
The black and gray skin-suit was next, folded as neatly as if by a gentlemen's gentleman. The pure silver chest decoration rested on top of that, its carved wolf head emblem a magnificent likeness. Next was the pull-on cowl, and on the top were the forearm-length gauntlet gloves.
The cowl was designed for only partial head coverage; his face below the eyes uncovered. Slits were in place to accommodate his overgrown wolf ears. Also built into the cowl was his communication link with Alfred, his cybernetic intelligence network. His father, an enthusiastic fan of the Batman mythos, named the interactive program after the hero's faithful butler and aid. Alfred provided logistical and tactical support during missions.
Van Dyke's specially designed gauntlets had the appearance of hockey gloves, but were constructed of the same flex materials as his boots, with the gloves' open fingertips designed to accommodate the change from human fingernails to exaggerated werewolf talons. The gauntlets were also set up with his most basic close-quarter combat weaponry: twin daggers with blades made of the purest silver. But adversaries had more than the blades to defend against.
Lying on the top of the folded uniform were his pride and joy. His great-great-grandfather had started the Lunar silver bullet tradition, and each generation had improved upon their own set of death dealing pistols. Treece's were a pair of silver-plated Desert Eagles. Firing special .50 caliber hollow point silver shells containing a liquid silver load, the guns had been custom balanced and fitted to be effective in both his human and wolf hands. The pistol's grips, trigger guard, and trigger were coated in black rubber to protect him from the silver's effect. Werewolves were especially agile and lightning-quick predators, but when he was on target, the guns had great stopping power. Over the years, despite arduous training, he was still considerably less accurate using his left hand than his right while in wolf form. No one was perfect, he supposed. Batman probably didn't throw the bat-a-rang as well with his left hand either. Now, in the moonlight, the guns' polished plating shined like the North Star.
Just looking at the pistols nearly stimulated the transformation. He could feel his pelt ready to sprout all over his body. But allowing the change to happen now would be a terrible mistake.
He enjoyed a few more moments savoring the sight of his uniform, and then Treece Van Dyke let the trunk's lid drop. He turned and faced the brilliance of the full moon. It was one of those nights when the moon seemed closer to the earth, posing to show off its pale, radiant beauty. He closed his eyes and let his body drink deeply from the source of its power. If not for the moon, the curse of his family would be impotent.
The superhuman will and resolve of his great-great-grandfather had re-directed the bestial curse of lycanthropy and aimed it back at its darkest hearts. Through research and inhuman mental and physical training, great-great-grandfather Theotis had become the original Lunar. Lunar, the first werewolf who'd trained himself to retain higher human function while in wolf form. By harnessing his savage power through reasoning, his great-great-grandfather dedicated himself to protecting humanity's herd from those afflicted with the curse and its insatiable craving for human flesh.
Last night had been Treece's last night wearing the cowl. He'd failed to discover the lair of his nemesis, a man-wolf named Driessen, dubbed by the Los Angeles media as "The Manimal." All his efforts and network of contacts hadn't been able to track the killer down. Treece had been thinning out the werewolf pack for weeks, but none would divulge the location of the den. The best Alfred could do was narrow it to downtown's Skid Row, but time had run out before they could pinpoint the lair. Driessen had probably gone underground, and Treece's heritage ended in a few hours, his last mission unresolved. The Wolf Pack would now have free reign until the next Van Dyke would be ready for battle. Treece figured it would be two years before his son Erik would don the cowl and cape. Every innocent life lost in the interim was going to weigh heavily on Treece's heart. But it was strictly forbidden to ignore or alter the length of the tradition. Soon he would have to drink the serum.
He moved enough to appraise his reflection in a wall mirror, disregarding the scars. His shoulders were still broad and powerful. His belly had no extra flesh and was still ridged with abdominal muscles. His legs were slim but more than ready for lengthy chases over any terrain. The loose curls of his hair were still dark and plentiful, though some gray had begun to creep in at the temples. He'd never noticed the gray when he allowed his wolf to emerge. Perhaps it made him look mature and distinctive. His ocean blue-green eyes looked back at him with a clarity and inner strength every hunter of the night needed. He still looked the part of an Alpha wolf hero. And already so did his son, a taller, slimmer version of himself.
Treece glanced back to the small table next to the trunk. The silver courier case sat waiting. He stared as if his vision might be able to penetrate the metal housing but that was both impossible and unnecessary. He knew the contents and the vital part they'd played over the years. In a matter of minutes he'd open the case, consume the glowing green fluid of the glass vial inside, and its contents would destroy the wolf side of him forever, permanently putting an end to the 100 transformation obligation as all the Lunars had done before him. His enlistment in the war against supernatural evil would be over, and he would live out the remainder of his life as normal as any other man.
The adventure of a lifetime was almost over.
A decade ago he was resisting the path he was destined to take. Now he'd sell his soul to continue the life of a hero. But if he did not take the serum and continued to transform, he would forsake his humanity and eventually be driven mad by his wolf's bloodlust. He'd heard the stories, some from within his own family. Driessen was the latest example of the Van Dyke bloodline gone horribly awry.
He turned and looked to the briefcase. It was time to end it.
The case was already unlocked. He lifted the lid and reached in, pulling the clear tube from its padded holder. He stared into the emerald green liquid. It glowed inside the container. Without another thought, he unscrewed the top, took a deep breath, and raised the vial to his lips. The thick liquid oozed toward his awaiting mouth.
A beep sounded from his earpiece communicator. He hadn't had the desire to turn it off and remove it until his tour of duty was fully completed. By this time tomorrow night he'd feel naked without it. He lowered the serum and pressed the communicator.
"Master Treece, I believe I've located Driessen's den. Is it too late to utilize the information?"