Wesley Southard is the two-time Splatterpunk Award-Winning and Imadjinn Award-Winning author of nearly a dozen books. His work has been optioned for film and has also been published in Italian and Spanish. He lives with his wife and his son in Pennsylvania. Visit him online at www.wesleysouthardhorror.com.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
Well, it’s not a very sexy story, but I’ll tell it anyway. I had been a heavy reader growing up, devouring just about everything I could that looked scary to me. Thanks to my father, I loved horror films, but he wasn’t as much of a reader as my mother was. She was always encouraging me to read and to pick up books that interested me. I was a typical kid growing up in the 1990’s, so of course I owned every single Goosebumps novel and all three of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections. I was obsessed with that trio of Alvin Schwartz books, so much so that I would rewrite some of the stories in grade school and pass them off as my own.
As I grew older, my reading tastes obviously changed. I was still reading dark fiction, but I had graduated to the likes of Keene, Gonzalez, Lebbon, Clark, Masterton, Lee, Gerlach, Garton, SanGiovanni, ect. I became obsessed with the small press, spent tons of money on expensive hardcovers and limited editions. There was something about the mid-list writers that really spoke to me. Sure, I loved King and Matheson, but the newer crop from the 90’s and 2000’s felt more like home to me.
Back in 2007, when I saw that author Brian Keene was doing a convention signing in Indianapolis, I decided to make the three and a half hour drive north to meet him. I wasn’t sure what to expect, seeing as how this was my first book signing event. But Keene made me feel welcome and he sat down and chatted with me and signed all my books and took pictures. I remember specifically, after he walked away, thinking, “All these writers are so nice. I wonder what it would be like to be one?”
I went home and mused about it for a while, then decided to start my first novel. Sixteen years, eleven books, and three literary award later, and I haven’t stopped writing.
I would say that would probably be my novel Cruel Summer. It’s been my best-selling work since its initial release. I love that book so much. It’s about a woman and her young son going on a Florida vacation with her abusive boyfriend in an attempt to fix their broken relationship. Things get heated when they’re out on a fishing boat, and the boyfriend finds himself sinking to the bottom of the ocean after taking a baseball hat to the skull. The mother and son finally think they’re free from the boyfriend’s torment, but something finds him at the bottom of the ocean, something very old and in need of a fresh body to inhabit to enact its own form of revenge. The story is about overcoming great odds, both internal and external, and what it takes to do both. I’m extremely proud of the fact that it won Best Horror Novel at the 2022 Imadjinn Awards.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m finishing up a novella for a two story book I’m putting together with author Wile E. Young. My story is a novella called Everybody Wants to Rule the World, but the book itself is called Disasterpieces. The theme of the two separate stories is disasters, both man-made and natural. Wile E. and I both for a long while now have wanted to write something long form that had absolutely zero supernatural elements, and when this book idea came along, we decided now was the time to do just that. I’m extremely excited about my story. I think it could be one of the best things I’ve ever written. It’s got its action set pieces, but it’s much more a character study on how opposites can attract in friendship and how certain prejudices can tear them apart. We’re really looking forward to getting this book out in the world.
What is your writing routine?
Now that my wife and I are parents, I have to find the time whenever I can. I’ve recently discovered that my best writing time is after they both go to bed around 8pm. If I can get to the computer not long after that, I can probably knock out a thousand to two thousand words before I go to bed myself.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Honesty, I admire anyone in this business who can stay positive all the time in the face of everything negative it can throw at you. From personal issues like trying to find time to actually write or dealing with whatever life throws at you, to much bigger things like negative reviews, online trolls, feeling left out, rejections, and whathaveyou. I look up to people in this business who can always shake it off and keep trucking along at a steady pace.
Do you prefer all-out gore or psychological chills?
You know, I grew up a gore guy. I’ve written quite a lot of it too. But I’m finding the older I get, the less I want to delve into that type of work. Like the book I’m currently working on, I’m wanting to continue to grow as a storyteller and challenge myself to try to new things. I think psychological chills and dread are what I want to lean into more now these days. The things that used to scare me don’t necessarily cause me as much anxiety as they used to. I think that’s reflecting in my fiction as well.
Why should people read your work?
I’d like to think I’m fairly well rounded as a dark fiction author and that every new book you check out of mine is something new and fresh and not what you expect. My goal as a storyteller is to keep my readers on their toes and to always have them guessing. I never want to be stale or boring or overuse genre tropes.
Recommend a book.
I would love to recommend Blood Crazy by Simon Clark. I believe Clark is truly one of the best horror authors of the last twenty-five years and doesn’t get enough love from the genre. His work, especially his first ten books or so, are untouchably good. Blood Crazy is a bonafide classic at this point and should be read by anyone who loves horror fiction.