C.S. Humble is an award-winning novelist of The Survivor’s Trilogy and the Black Wells Series. He lives near Houston, Texas. All These Subtle Deceits will be available in October, 2022 via Dark Hart. You can find C.S. Humble on Twitter here.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
The first question is always the hardest to answer, right? You wonder to yourself, while trying to answer, “How much of the truth is worth telling here?” and “What fine slices of my life that brought me into this moment do they want to read? Should I talk about how seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street on a bootlegged VHS, left inside a rented VCR was the first time I remember seeing a monster that really, truly scared me? Or should I be more honest, more vulnerable, and say that most all my horror-leaning work comes from a deep well of fears that I have and trauma I have experienced?
I started pushing myself hard into writing when I was in the larval stage of my twenties. And I started writing about the primal elements that have most deeply affected me in my own life, two of them specifically. The stories I wrote came back to two themes.
The terror of violence. Real violence. Violence that changes people.
The power of love. Tangible love. Love that transforms.
My experiences with terror came from the works of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe, Flannery O’Conner, Cormac McCarthy, Joe R. Lansdale, George R.R. Martin (most notably his marvelous novel Fevre Dream), and William Peter Blatty, that masterful titan who seemingly without effort, could send the heart falling over a cliff the reader would never see coming. Among them were the films of Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, and the illimitable dread of John Carpenter’s works.
I learned about love from J. R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, the theology of Jürgen Moltmann, Shirley Jackson’s haunts, Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasies, Matthew Stover’s glorious prose, and without question, the writing of Larry McMurty and the adventure sagas films, overflowing with unashamed romance, written by Lawrence Kasdan.
Those people, mingled together with an impossibly large cloud of others who loved me, believed in my work ethic, and mortared me into a writer who just so happens to find a great deal of power and meaning, healing and sanctuary in horror.
If any of them are of note, it is likely my most recent novel All These Subtle Deceits (Dark Hart, October, 2022), a horror possession novel printed in limited amount by Ghoulish Books, with the rights now transferred to Sadie Hartmann and Rob Carroll’s new imprint Dark Hart. It is the first installment in, what should be, a five book series revolving around the fictional city of Black Wells, Colorado.
What are you working on now?
I finished the second book in the Black Wells series in late February of 2022 entitled All the Prospect Around Us (Dark Hart, Late 2022). Now, after completing the third book in my Adventure Horror trilogy – The Survivor’s Trilogy (Cemetery Dance, 2023) in late April, I am now working on the third book in the Black Wells series, which is entitled All that Mankind Fails to Bear (Dark Hart, 2023). The goal is to finish the entire Black Wells series by the end of 2022.
What is your writing routine?
Lots of people go back and forth about routine and word counts and all that. I have a specific word count that I try to hit every single day. That doesn’t work best for all, but it works best for me. I believe that consistent work leads to consistent results. I like to think of writing with a siege mentality. Daily, concerted efforts that ultimately lead to victory and with each victory comes growth.
Growth being the most important aspect to the writing life. Stagnation is the enemy of every writer and daily effort the greatest enemy of stagnation.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Christ in Heaven, where to begin.
If you all thought this shit was long-winded before…
Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror) for her continuous advocacy of the genre. Sadie is an oriflamme. A singular banner snapping in the wind that directs readers to the authors she knows they will enjoy.
Stephen Graham Jones who writes with a simple, wheeling power every author can learn from. Though his style is irreproducible, Jones teaches writers with every page. One only needs to pay attention to see how he uses timeless mechanics in new ways. Ways that disrupt and, in the end, payoff with golden reward.
Laird Barron. It is difficult to overstate the power Laird has had on the genre, especially Cosmic Horror, but moreover, the power Laird has had on my life as a mentor and friend. His ability to paint nature in starkly beautiful and horrifically unforgiving spectral hues is rivaled only by Jack London’s To Build a Fire, except that Laird does it with every story.
Victor LaValle. The Ballad of Black Tom is, for me, the very best elevation of cosmic horror, with his seething and calculated takedown of H.P. Lovecraft’s monstrous racism. LaValle’s narrative voice teaches writers that dialogue should sound and feel natural for the characters. And that they should all have unique ways of speaking.
Hailey Piper. Unashamed. Brash. Horror that touches the tender flesh above the heart and then reaches for the spine. I have not read enough of her work and likely, neither have you.
The late William Peter Blatty. Never has religious and supernatural horror been so solemnly and tragically crafted. The Exorcist is, pound for pound, one of the top three horror novels ever written. Not because of the terror and the fear and the panicked hearts residing within the work, but because of the longing and the pain and the hope that come roaring out of a novel that time will only continue to glorify.
John Langan. When we talk about observing grief from within the spectrum of horror, John Langan has something to teach us. The Fisherman is a master’s degree in that field of study for any aspiring writer.
I want to mention the work of Molly Tanzer (specifically Vermillion), Cynthia Pelayo (Children of Chicago), Laurel Hightower (Crossroads), and Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic) for all of the tremendous work they are putting out in the world right now.
I don’t know that I have a preference as both can be used to affect readers in meaningful ways. Those who read my books will find a pervasive sense of dread, splashed through terror and buckets of blood when violence occurs.
Why should people read your work?
There are so many valuable voices in horror. So many people providing stories only they can tell, in the unique way they tell them.
I believe in the importance of those stories.
I also believe that I am telling stories that only I can tell. Stories that respect the themes found in the works of cosmic and supernatural horror, but also seek to subvert them entirely. Cosmic Horror especially. The books I am writing now, and I say this without any attempt at self-importance, are a literary trauma response to the Cosmic Horror movement that has been taking place over the last decade. I am working to build a collection of horror that terrifies, entertains, and most importantly takes a reader by the heart, lifting them. Showing them that no matter what happens, no matter how dark waking life or stories become, there is always a place, high up, that darkness cannot reach.
The place where we all come together, hand-in-hand. A place where horror heals. To quote J. Barrie Shepherd’s Pontius Pilate, a place where we can:
“…search and find the boon, above all boons,
the gift of grace that bears the mending touch of love
to heal the darkest places of the soul.”
I think readers, horror lovers most importantly, need that place.
I’m here, holding a lantern, so we can all search and find it together.
Recommend a book.
Recommended books for writers looking to grow:
Moby Dick, Melville—Learning how to consistently find the right word at the right time, every time. Written for power. This is, for me, the Grandfather of Cosmic Horror.
Blood Meridian, or A Red Evening in the West, McCarthy—Learning how to convey horror in prose through poetic language. Also, a bloody pillar of deconstructionism.
Recommended books for readers looking to fall in love with a hidden gem:
Fevre Dream, George R.R. Martin – A sweeping, charming novel that, for me, is Martin at his best. “So, we’ll go no more a roving, So late into the night,”Buy C.S. Humble’s books