Adam Cesare is an American author of horror novels and short stories. He has attended Boston University, where he studied English and film. www.adamcesare.com
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I’ve been a horror fan (or at the very least morbidly attracted to horror) since before I could read, growing up in a household where reading for recreation was encouraged, it was just a natural fit. Just one of those creepy geek kids, Halloween all the time.
Probably Tribesmen, which was my first piece of long fiction released and the only one that’s had two editions. I guess I wouldn’t call it “notable” but it’s the one more people have read.
When I’m selling books at conventions and people aren’t specific with what flavor of horror they prefer, I tend to push them towards either The Summer Job or The First One You Expect. Because I feel that those are two of my best and they have something of a more general appeal to them.
What are you working on now?
Too many things. A few years ago I was really good at starting a project, finishing it, sending it out the door, and then starting the next thing. But right now, because I’ve had offers to work with a lot of different publishers (NOT something I’m complaining about), I have more partials than I know what to do with.
The most recent thing I finished is a novel tentatively called The Con Season, which is kind of a showbiz satire that takes the form of a summer camp slasher (Sleepway Camp, Friday the 13th). Now I’m moving on to one of those hundred partial manuscripts.
How much planning and research do you undertake before writing?
My subjects are normally not research-intensive, but my most recent novel, Mercy House, was the exception to that rule. It takes place in a rest home, so not only did I wind up doing a good amount of googling, but I also talked to a few doctors, along with a friend who works as a speech pathologist at a nursing home to make sure I had some of those details right. But normally: no, not a lot of research. And if I do research it’s rarely beforehand, it’s only usually once I reach a snag and need to look something up.
Describe your writing routine.
I try to be as Spartan as possible. I do most of my writing on an Alphasmart Dana (a word processor with no internet access) and try to be in a quiet public place (libraries are my first choice, but I can do coffee shops). The combination of no internet access and the shame of working where people can see me usually results in productivity.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I admire a lot of people, and I’ve been in the very fortunate position of having people whose work I enjoy (in some cases even grew up reading) as friends and mentors. I probably shouldn’t name drop them directly, because that would make me sound like a jerk.
But I will say that the writers I most admire are short story writers. To me, as a writer, there is no harder format than the short story. Novels and novellas: absolute cake-walks compared to writing a tight and effective 5,000 word story. So Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Joe Hill. The folks who are REALLY good at writing short stories seem to be better writers, in general, even when they turn to long-form stuff.
I don’t know if that’s admiration as much as it is straight-up jealousy on my part.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
I’m very much of the opinion that there’s a time and place for both. I’ve written splattery stuff, I’ve written more restrained stuff, and as a reader I’m the same omnivorous way: I like Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House just as much as I like Matheson’s Hell House, and those are basically the same book, only one has been gore and sexed up.
I’m so damn charming! No, but really, that’s a hard question to answer. I’ve got people who like my period novels and novellas (Video Night, Tribesmen) because they say they’ve got a fun “throwback” vibe, and I’ve got people who like my more contemporary stuff because that work tends to get very reflexive and comment on horror fandom/tropes.
So my books may appeal to anyone who places themselves somewhere on the spectrum of being a horror fan. Whether they’re more into lit or movies, I try to have something for all my horror-hound brothers and sisters.
Recommend a book.
I’m sure everyone’s recommending this, but Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts is awesome. Just so good.