First of all, let me just say how happy I am to be interviewing Mr. Crook, I thoroughly enjoyed his book and I completely recommend it!
So, what gave you the inspiration to become an author?
I’ve always been very imaginative, since I was young. My mother used to say, “You were such an easy boy to take care of. I could give you anything and you’d keep yourself amused for hours.” That imagination went with me into a lot of different projects, from drawing and then to writing. I found a niche in the early days of the internet and chat rooms, with a special sect of people who did text-based role-playing, which was essentially a form of interactive, group storytelling. You’d take the role of a character, play his part in whatever agreed upon setting you were in, and on you went. It was really nerdy, I know, but it was a great creative outlet for me. It drew in many different writers. I remember making an impact in those forums and being recognized as extraordinary. That was surprising to me, being in such a special group of people who were all writers and loved to write. It told me I had something. I knew then that eventually I wanted to write forever, not for a living, but forever.
Do you have a favorite author?
My favorite author is H.P. Lovecraft. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge reader despite being a writer, but I’m working on getting better about it! I’ve always loved film as a medium for hearing a story and I’ve got a lot of inspiration from it. I love science, though I’m not huge into sci-fi (another oddity about myself). I’ve always loved the feeling of being scared. H.P. Lovecraft combined the two for me, and he did so with such beautiful style. I loved reading his stories, because every time I read one, I would be like, “What is that word?” I’d go on a bit more, then ask again, “What’s this word?” To some people who might be frustrating, but to me, I loved being challenged as a reader, and wanting to be a writer, I enjoyed learning new words.
Your book, “Amid the Recesses” is brilliant, how long did it take to write?
Well, first I want to say “thank you” on the “brilliant” comment. I’ve never thought it was brilliant. I wrote and produced Amid the Recesses with absolute humility, as a sort of stranger in a place I didn’t belong. I’d never written a real horror story before and had only made feeble attempts at a novel or two. Amid the Recesses was about a year in the making, with sporadic charges of enthusiasm and creativity. I didn’t follow the standard sit-and-write-everyday-for-two-hours methodology I’ve heard is a necessity of fiction writers. I wrote when I felt inspired to write. There were a couple of stories I wrote because I couldn’t sleep and I thought it would get me there. I’ll admit, I think those stories are obviously out of place, but I won’t mention which ones they are.
What made you want to write horror?
Horror to me was a perfect genre for me because it would allow me to embrace this immense, sometimes terrifying imagination of mine. When I think of writing fiction, or writing in general, the medium is so unrestricted and open. I love that about writing. It doesn’t have to be politically correct. It doesn’t have to stay within the lines of anybody’s fantasies about how the world is. Writing just needs to be about what the author wants to write. Like I said, I loved being afraid. I always thought it would be fun to give people a lasting scare, something that would make them think twice about something. Fear, after all, is one of those emotions that you can’t easily separate from. Fear isn’t something you just let go of.. it lasts. At the same time, the horror genre was full of guts and gore and violence of all classes. While I’m not against any of that, I wanted to write something beautiful and inspiring. I wanted to challenge the reader to think. I wanted things to never be quite as they seemed. But, that’s the world, isn’t it? Never what you expect it to be. So, despite the imagination and despite the fantasy, at the same time, my expedition into horror was also very, very real.
How do you feel “Amid the Recesses” has been received?
To be honest, I don’t think it’s been received much at all. Being an indie writer and a self-published one at that, I have to compete with a lot of brilliant other writers trying to make a name for themselves. I say “compete” loosely, because I truly hope that each and every one of them do well and I often do what I can to aid in their promotion if I believe they deserve it. However, there are a lot of terrible writers marring the image of self-published authors aspiring to do great things and offer a different channel to readers. To those writers, I say “shame on you!” I don’t want to discourage their efforts. I just say, don’t walk onto the field without a mitt. If you don’t want to take the time to format, edit, write, think, be different, be disciplined and respect the art as we do, don’t bother. Do it when you’re truly ready. Regardless, I think that in time Amid the Recesses will receive a lot of attention; not for its quality, but for its diversity, which I believe is its true strength.
Your newest work is in progress, what can you tell me about it?
Yes, the working title of the anthology is A Penny Down the Well: A Short Story Collection of Horrifying Events. As you can see, there’s a bit of a parallel with Amid the Recesses there in the title. I intend to write three anthologies, all separate, then eventually sell them all in one, big, massive collection. I’m excited about that. A Penny Down the Well plays a little bit off of some of the ideas in the story “Black and White” in Amid the Recesses. It aims to take our everyday events, full of everyday consequences and bring a sort of horrifying twist to them. For example, how many things do we take for granted in the world? When we throw something away, are we certain it remains in the trash? When something’s flushed down the drain, are we certain it ends up in a sewer system? When we share a conversation with someone, are we sure its spontaneous and normal, or is the a malicious background to the encounter? These are simple ideas which may not sound individually interesting (who thinks everyday things are interesting) but that’s just it: when there’s a story that makes you think about that everyday act, incites a bit of fear in everyday life, well… that’s something, isn’t it? A Penny Down the Well is mostly paranormal, which is something seen in bits and pieces in Amid the Recesses. Nothing is off-limits. The stories are going to be a lot longer, with a bit more character development, but I do my best to keep the intensity of it all. Also, expect a little bit of humor and more dialogue. I’ve always loved pulling readers in and out of emotions dynamically. I want to do that with this next book. The newest version of Amid the Recesses has a preview story from A Penny Down the Well called “Down the Drain.”
Are you interested in exploring other genres, or do you feel your feet are firmly planted in Horror?
I’m definitely interested in other genres. I want to write a children’s book at some point. I know that sounds strange, defining myself as a horror author. But I love the longevity of great children’s stories over time. I think of Where the Wild Things Are or young reader books like A Wrinkle in Time. Those books inspired young readers to become writers and I want, more than anything, to inspire. I don’t desire immense success. I don’t desire money and fame. I just want people to have something they cherish and something that changed them forever. I also have a secret project for a novel that I intend to create eventually. Right now, the focus is the three anthologies, but when the time comes, I’ll be sure to let those concerned know. To sum it up, though, I absolutely intend to write across many genres in the future. Horror is my current stop, but I’m a vagabond at heart.
Do you have any words for aspiring authors?
I was careful to call myself a writer for a long time, because it sounded so definitive. When I accepted that, while writing, I strayed from calling myself an author, until other people suggested I was one. If what defines you is what you’ve accomplished and what others recognize you’ve accomplished, then the best thing I can say is to write. Write incessantly. Temper your discipline and take the time to put your story down on paper. When you’re done with your story, read it to yourself, over and over again. Have friends read it and make sure that it’s everything you wanted, as you want the story told. Never censor yourself. Never be afraid to be different. Never be commanded by the market. Write what inspires you and what you feel will inspire others. Use social media and embrace those that embrace you. Build empires together with other authors and don’t try to haul the stone yourself. Be efficient and true. That’s really all I can say. The rest I intend to learn from others.