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Horrotober Indie Writers – interview with Tim Waggoner about WRITING IN THE DARK

Firstly, a huge thank you for Tim, Erin and Raw Dog Screaming Press for sending me this ARC and providing me with access to Tim for this interview.

Q1 What was the reason behind deciding to publish this and the move from fiction to a book on writing advice?

When I first started writing seriously in my late teens, I began reading Writer’s Digest religiously. My favorite part was the fiction-writing column written by Lawrence Block which appeared regularly in the magazine. I learned more from reading Block’s columns than I ever did from any writing class I ever took, and through Block, I became interested in writing about writing. As my own writing and teaching careers took off, I began publishing articles about various aspects of fiction writing for magazines, and when I decided to start a blog, it only seemed natural to focus it on writing as well. I’d toyed with the idea of doing my own how-to-write book over the years, and when I realized how many articles I’d written on horror writing and how many workshops I’d presented, I decided that I’d developed enough material to do a book on the subject. My primary purpose for writing the book was to create the kind of guide that I wished I’d had when I started out, and in some small way give back to the genre I love and which has given me so much.

Q2 Is the intended audience new writers looking to break into horror, or is there something for everyone?

I wrote the book for anyone who’s interested in taking their horror writing to the next level, whether they’re just starting out or have been writing and publishing for years. Hopefully horror writers at any stage of their careers will find something useful and inspiring in the book.

Q3 What makes your book different to the famous ON WRITING by King?

King’s book is half memoir, half basic writing guide, and while I love it, I wanted my book to provide more detailed information on writing horror specifically. I discuss the different elements of horror fiction and what makes them work, and I present exercises and prompts to help writers hone their skills. I also wanted my book to include more voices than my own. It’s important for writers to hear from a variety of different practitioners so they can get different points of view on how to write good horror. To this end, I included short interviews with over eighty horror professionals – writers, editors, publishers, and agents – in which they give their best advice on writing horror.

Q4 Did you write the book using your teacher voice, or was it more intended to sound like a buddy passing on tips to a newbie?

I wanted the book to feel as if the reader and I were sitting in the hotel bar at a horror convention and having a conversation about writing – although I’m sure my teacher voice snuck in from time to time! The more accessible a how-to book is, the more effective it is. The last thing you want to do is come across as a dull, dry pendant. Plus, even if a book’s primary purpose is to provide information, you still want it to be interesting and entertaining to read, and hopefully I managed that. 

Q5 Without giving away the ideas in the book, what is the one piece of advice you would give to someone to get off the slush pile?

That’s tough to answer. I suppose I’d say to make sure that the main story problem appears in your manuscript as soon as possible, even if it’s just hinted at. So many of the student manuscripts I see take forever to get the main story started. Beginning writers often feel as if they have to introduce everything to the reader immediately – character and setting details, tons of exposition, etc. – and nothing important occurs in the story while all these details are presented. Sometimes this goes on for pages, and in the case of novels, maybe even a chapter or two. Your story doesn’t have to begin with an explosive action sequence like a James Bond or Indiana Jones adventure, but something important connected to the main story problem should happen as soon as possible. 

Q6 Will there be more guides and advisory books in the future from you?

Maybe? I poured everything I knew about writing horror into Writing in the Dark, and when I finished, it felt as if I’d never have anything more to say on the subject. But some months have passed since I wrote the book, and I’ve been contemplating writing a companion volume that focuses entirely on horror writing exercises and prompts. I have a couple novels that I need to finish before I can begin to seriously contemplate writing such a book, though. But if the response to Writing in the Dark is strong enough – and if it seems that readers would find an exercise-focused companion useful – there’s a good chance I’ll write it.

Q7 What is next for you?

As I said above, I have two novels that I need to write, both for Flame Tree Press. A Hunter Called Night features a mysterious man named Arron who’s on the run from a supernatural creature called Night. Arron barricades himself in an office building, putting the lives of all the workers inside at risk.  Lord of the Feast is about a family who attempted to create their own god a decade ago. The process went disastrously wrong, and the family members went their separate ways, each taken a piece of the aborted god with them. Now one of the family wants to resurrect the god – but to do it, he’ll have to confront his relatives, who have no intention of cooperating with him.


Tim Waggoner, Biography –

Critically acclaimed author Tim Waggoner has published over fifty novels and seven collections of short stories. He writes original dark fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins, and he’s the author of a book on writing horror fiction called Writing in the Dark. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award and been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, the Scribe Award, and the Splatterpunk Award. He’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.


Twitter: @timwaggoner


Instagram: tim.waggoner.scribe

Writing in the Dark –

In this comprehensive textbook devoted to the craft of writing horror fiction, award-winning author Tim Waggoner draws on thirty years’ experience as a writer and teacher. Writing in the Dark offers advice, guidance, and insights on how to compose horror stories and novels that are original, frightening, entertaining, and well-written.

Waggoner covers a wide range of topics, among them why horror matters, building viable monsters, generating ideas and plotlines, how to stylize narratives in compelling ways, the physiology of fear, the art of suspense, avoiding clichés, marketing your horror writing, and much more. Each chapter includes tips from some of the best horror professionals working today, such as Joe Hill, Ellen Datlow, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus, Yvette Tan, Thomas Ligotti, Jonathan Maberry, Edward Lee, and John Shirley. There are also appendices with critical reflections, pointers on the writing process, ideas for characters and story arcs, and material for further research.

Writing in the Dark derives from Waggoner’s long-time blog of the same name. Suitable for classroom use, intensive study, and bedside reading, this essential manual will appeal to new authors at the beginning of their career as well as veterans of the horror genre who want to brush up on their technique.

From Raw Dog Screaming Press, it published September 16, 2020. It’s available in hardback and paperback for pre-order before that date, and usually mail early.

Praise for Writing in the Dark

“More than just a generalized survey of spooky stuff, this book addresses horror in all its many manifestations, from Quiet Horror to Extreme Horror to Country Horror. Beyond discussions of plotting and character, Waggoner also offers helpful advice on interacting with agents and publishers, as well as best practices for marketing your work.”—Booklist

“I was in the final edits of a novel that I believed to be solid. Waggoner’s advice suggested I dig deeper. I did and now the story feels so much more alive and relevant…Enrol in this fine course with Professor Waggoner. You won’t mind the homework—even if the monster does eat it.”—Dave Simms for Cemetery Dance

For more information or to order go to, purchase at usual online retailers, or order from your local bookstore.

Tim is my 3rd Indie Horror Writer shout-out during Horrotober – make sure you check out his work and follow him, Erin and RDSP on the SM.

Thank you and stay spooky …

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