Monday, October 19, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Steven Wolff


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Steven.  Welcome to The Gal.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Steven Wolff:
My name is Steven Wolff - I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and lived there for most of my life until the last 14 years when I decided I was tired of the heat and humidity.  I relocated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest where I'm now a full time student at Clark College, studying to be an Ultrasound Tech.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Steven Wolff:
I've been a paranormal investigator since 2001, before all these "ghost shows" come on.

I'm the Founder of The South Texas Ghost Hunters Alliance & The Ghost Education & Research  Center.

I'm a multi-genre writer (Horror, Fantasy, Non-Fiction).

I've served in the US Army during Desert Shield & Storm.

I have three cats (two rescued) and a Golden Retriever. :)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Steven Wolff:
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  I remember being so in love with that book.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Steven Wolff:
They Say, I Say - It's a book I'm reading for English class on how to enter into conversations intelligently.  It's pretty interesting.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Steven Wolff:
My roommate back in 2009 was an avid reader.  She would go to the library about once a week and read five to ten books - easy.  She told me that I have a creative mind, and that I should try being a writer.  In her room, on a cork board above her desk, was a sign that said "Tell Me a Story."  I thought about it and decided I would try my hand at writing.  I started writing Anica Storm & the Wand of Time and didn't finish it until three years later.  In 2012, I self-published it, along with another book called Got Ghosts? Real Stories of Paranormal Activity.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Steven Wolff:
I used to write at my desk, but at my old job I had a lot of down time while driving an Armored Truck between stops.  In my pocket was a small binder that I would use to write my books on, using my pen and my imagination.  I've gone through several of them since then.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Steven Wolff:
I usually write best in complete darkness - the only light coming from my computer monitor.  My desk is near a window and I love looking out the window at three in the morning, watching the rain or  leaves fall from the trees.  I can write anytime, of course, but ideally that's my little quirk.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Steven Wolff:
What's most challenging for most writers is getting yourself to sit down and write.  This is a common problem that most people have when trying to write anything.  Once I'm in my chair, either in front of a computer, or sitting with pen and paper, it just comes out like turning on a water faucet.  For some, though, they lock up an nothing comes out.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Steven Wolff:
I'm a big fan of Anne Rice and Stephen King, but I'm not sure where my writing style originated.  I've read too many books to be able to say any one or two people gave me the most inspiration.  So many talented and gifted writers out there... :)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Steven Wolff:
A good outline.  I'm a big fan of the Heroes Journey.  Most people have seen the structure in all great films and books, but are unaware of it.  Joseph Campbell did research on all the great story structures from all over the world, in many different languages, and found that we all have the heroes journey outline in them.  So with that, throw in character A, add a friend called B, and definitely have an antagonist C, following the heroes journey and there you have the beginnings of a great book.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Steven Wolff:
I don't grow too attached to a character early on because I don't know them yet.  I make them "normal" like you and me, but then throw them into an outrageous situation and then watch them struggle.  Like the reader, as I'm writing, I discover how they are and that's where I form an admiration for them.  What I do notice is that I have a certain fond for friends and villains, because they are easier to write.  They can be over the top and do things my protagonist can't do.  When they contrast each other, then I love the reactions they have to their friends doing crazy things.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Steven Wolff:
Anica Storm and Stephanie Bradfield (from Self-Aware) have a lot of my personality in them.  They are kind, to themselves, and don't like to rock the boat, but when push comes to shove, they do what needs to be done.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Steven Wolff:
I think a bad cover is a sign of laziness.  While a lot of writers are "starving artists," meaning we barely have any money to do anything, much less be able to afford to spend $250 to $400 on a cover, we are left with trying to find a balance.  Ideally, if you can afford to hire a great artist - do it!  If you can afford it, but don't - and then slap a generic cover on - you're only hurting yourself.  People DO judge a book by its cover.  In this day and age, where we are hyper-bombarded with images, ads, and things fighting for our attention, it only takes a quick second for someone to pass over your book because the cover didn't make them stop long enough to see what you're about.  Once you have their attention, then the content inside is the next step in getting them to buy your book.  It's important you don't half-ass it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Steven Wolff:
It's hard to be seen, now that everyone and their grandma are publishing their own books.  A perfect example of this is like what you see on YouTube.  Hundreds of thousands of videos are uploaded every day to YouTube, but the really good ones stand out on their own and go viral.  People will share what is good, if it is good, and I think the same applies to books.  If you're good, yours will float to the top and people will pass it around via word of mouth and sharing.  It's getting seen and discovered that's the trick.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Steven Wolff:
In my zombie series, Self Aware, I'm constantly on the lookout for how I can make the scene gory-er. How can I make it more disturbing?  It's a zombie book, people are expecting disturbing, but it has to be balanced out with pace, characters, and the story has to flow.  There was one scene I wrote in the Extended Edition of Self Aware where the main protagonist comes up to a car that crashed into a tree. Inside was a husband/wife couple who died on impact.  That's not the hardest scene.  What was hardest was that Stephanie noticed the wife behind the wheel was nine months pregnant, and while she laid dead, the baby was inside moving, because it was a zombie.  She struggled to find a stick and stab the womb because walking away wasn't an option.
            Pretty intense, huh?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Steven Wolff:
Everyone's books are different from others because we all have our own way of storytelling.  I'd like to think that my books are different because I LOVE intentional twists and turns.  I'll lead a reader down one path, making them think this is going to happen, and totally throw it in a different direction.  It keeps things interesting and makes the reader want to know what's happening next.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Steven Wolff:
Your book title, cover, color, and design all have to catch a person's attention, while giving them an idea of what you're about.  If I made a title called Blastphadora (just made up) and threw in a few random images, it doesn't do anything for the reader, but if I put a guy that looks like Boba Fett holding a lazy gun next to a spaceship, then the reader will figure this is a sci-fi book (which explains the weird name) and it has spaceships...so if the reader likes that, he/she might grab it.  So title is important, but that's just one tiny piece of the puzzle.  All the pieces have to fit together.  
            How did I choose mine?  I wanted to covey what the book was about - Anica Storm AND the WAND of TIME!  People see that and wonder who's this Anica person, but it has a wand in it, so it's probably got wizards in it.  Maybe this is my next Harry Potter fix?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Steven Wolff:
Novel - It's more fulfilling because there's a beginning, middle and end.  The characters are developed, and the problem resolved (or pushed into the next book).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Steven Wolff:
I've got a fantasy book called Anica Storm & the Wand of Time that's about a girl who becomes the first human to ever have fairy magic in her.  She's told of a parallel world that she must journey into, called Airrah, where she must meet the high counsel in order to remove the magic.  However, nothing ever goes as planned and Anica must learn what she's capable of doing to not only save herself, but those she loves.  It's full of action, comedy and adventure.
            My other book, Self Aware (A Zombie Series with a Fresh Twist!), is a book about a woman named Stephanie who wakes up with a mutated zombie virus.  Unlike all the other zombies, her virus is healing and regenerating her skin, as long as she eats another human every three days to keep the virus alive.  Stephanie struggles with being a zombie because she's one of the nicest people in the world, but she finds herself in all kinds of trouble when she goes to check on her parents.
            If you're not into fantasy, or zombies, I've got two other books: Got Ghosts? Real Stories of Paranormal Activity and the follow up book, Got Ghosts? 2: More Stories of Real Paranormal Activity.  Both books are collections of real emails sent to my group asking for help with their ghostly problems.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Steven Wolff:
In my zombie series, Self Aware, I cut out some scenes that were "over the top," so I put those deleted scenes into an extended edition (not out yet).  One of those scenes was the zombie baby mentioned earlier.  There's another scene where a would-be rapist gets his own gun shoved up his ass and fired off - by a pissed off main character.  In the version out right now, she just fires at the rapist's crotch.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Steven Wolff:
Yes I do!  I have several actually, but one I'm excited to write is called Red an is a twist of the modern fairy tale Red Riding Hood.  In my story, Red is cursed as a werewolf, from the same werewolf who killed her mom and grandma.  To break the curse, she must destroy the werewolf that infected her, but all isn't as it appears. :)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Steven Wolff:
Self Aware: Revenge of the Fallen (Book 2) is coming this Christmas to Amazon, and then in Sprint to iTunes, B&N, etc.  For the latest update, visit my website.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
You mentioned that you are a paranormal investigator and I'd like to ask you some questions about that aspect of your life.
            What got you involved with paranormal investigating?  Did you have an experience before starting?

Steven Wolff:
In 2000, I was bored one day and came across a website that said "Ghosts are real!  You just have to look for the patterns."  It listed those patterns and, at the time, I was a huge skeptic.  I remember saying, "Yeah right."  But I kept reading and it became more intriguing.  "What if..." I kept asking myself.  So ultimately the next step was "go with a ghost group in your area on a ghost hunt."  I lived in San Antonio at the time and back then, there was none.  The nearest group was 300 miles away in Houston, Texas, so I drove to Houston.  We investigated a house where a man killed his whole family inside that house and my first experience happened right when I was looking at a door.  The door latch unlocked itself right in front of me and the door swung open.  There was a large glass window in the door, so I saw that no one was on the other side when the latch unlocked.  It was enough of an event that I decided to drive back two weeks later and attend another investigation, what used to be a nurses dorm.  Long story short - that place was very haunted and it prompted me to start my own group called The South Texas Ghost Hunters Alliance (STGHA) in San Antonio.  Since I was still new to all this, my goal was to network with other ghost groups so we can share our knowledge and how we do things.  That was 14 years ago and I'm still loving what I do.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Have you ever seen an apparition?

Steven Wolff:
Yes, but it wasn't on a ghost hunt.  It was when I was working security for Seven Feathers Hotel & Casino.  I walked into the arcade area and there was no one around, so I glanced at the floor looking for trash, coins, etc.  When I turned, I saw shoes, pants, a light blue shirt, and a man with no face for a good three seconds - solid as you and me - who disappeared right in front of my eyes.  I must have jumped about three feet in the air at the time because I had never seen an apparition in my life (it's rare) and I wasn't expecting it - because it wasn't on a ghost hunt and I had never heard of the arcade being haunted.  I'll never forget it for the rest of my life.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What evidence of the paranormal do you most commonly get?

Steven Wolff:
Mostly Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP's), which are audio recordings believed to be from those who passed away.  Ghosts, being electromagnetic energy (FYI all our brains have an electromagnetic field around it), are able to "imprint" onto electronic devices, which is one way we believe we are able to pick them up on recordings.  It's neat when you hear answers to your voice.  It's exciting when the answer is crystal clear and from the opposite sex so you know it wasn't you or your buddy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How common is it that a place you investigate produces evidence of the paranormal?

Steven Wolff:
I've had fairly good success at having something paranormal happen on most investigations.  The trick to my success is completely opposite from what you see on those cheesy ghost programs.  What works for me - and I tell this to everyone - is be respectful.  Calling spirits/ghosts names, chicken, or provoking them in the same thing as bullying someone in real life.  It's not cool, and it's not respectful.  If I taunted and provoked you, would you do me any favors?  Hell no!  Neither will spirits.  They are people, too, and they have feelings.  They're not dumb because, as you see in my book (Got Ghosts? Real Stories of Paranormal Activity), a lot of people give detailed reports of what the ghosts are doing, usually in response to what the person did.  It's like picking up a stick in front of a dog - what happens?  It gets all excited.  Same thing with a spirit - if the spirit sees you noticed them, or what they did, they usually up the activity.  By this time, that's when my group is called in to help figure things out.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What kind of success have you had?

Steven Wolff:
If I walk away from an investigation with evidence, or a cool story to tell, then to me that counts as a success.  If I helped a family who turned to me because they were scared and now there's no more ghostly activity, then that's a win/win, too.  I've lost track of how many cases I've been on - there's been so many, but usually I leave with a good paranormal experience, and if lucky, evidence caught on audio or video.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been your greatest failure when it comes to paranormal investigating?

Steven Wolff:
I don't think of anything as failure.  I think of things as "lesson learned" and there's been many.  Our groups provide a service, free of charge, to both the living and the dead.  We're not just there to help the person being haunted, but also to see if we can help the spirit.  Do they have a message they want to pass on?  Do they just want you to know they are still around and watching over you or your baby?  Grandparent spirits are common around children.  There have been more cases than I can count when a spirit protected a child or family member from something bad happening to them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What sort of tools do you use?

Steven Wolff:
In the old days, we used to have a truck full of equipment.  Now I carry just one piece of equipment with me and that's an Olympus Digital Recorder.  I've had the best luck recording EVP's (ghost voices) with it and that's primarily what I use.  We used to have a fancy DVR with eight infrared HD cameras, several types of EMF detectors, dowsing rods, pendulums, disposable cameras (the ones you pay to develop), and motion detectors.  What I found, though, was while we were busy focusing on the technology, we were missing out on the activity that happens around us.  The best piece of equipment a ghost hunter can have is their own body.  Eyes, ears, nose, touch - there are so many paranormal things we can pick up on without a single piece of equipment.  I have seen movement, smelled perfumes or pipe smoke where there were none, felt the slightest to the heaviest of touch, felt warmth in cold places and stood in ice cold spots in the middle of the summer with the sun beating down.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the most unusual place you've investigated?

Steven Wolff:
A farm.  We were told we needed to investigate not inside, but outside were horses would come tromping and stampeding by the windows at night.  This farm had no animals; it was abandoned and taken over by the bank.  The new owners were investors and spent the night there several times when they swore they heard horses outside.  (Not far away from the neighboring farms - we're talking a few feet away, loud.)  We didn't hear the stampede, but we heard a few horses nearby. :)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you get scared?

Steven Wolff:
No.  Not when actively on an investigation.  I'm hoping to see something move, lift up, or hear something happen.  As mentioned earlier in this interview, I was scared when I first saw an apparition, but that wasn't a ghost hunt, that was where I work.  Never again did I see anything like that happen where I worked.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you deal with skeptics?

Steven Wolff:
With a grain of salt.  I'm not here to convince anyone to believe anything.  I once was a skeptic and I suspended belief long enough to come to my own conclusion.  You can be skeptical or have doubts, and that's okay.  I encourage everyone to go out and find your own answers.  Thanks to the internet, we know there are always two types of people on both spectrums of ANY given argument or belief.  (Politics, global warming, science, religion, paranormal - you name it.)  As much as I want to believe the paranormal videos I see on YouTube, I can't because we live in a day and age where it's so easy to falsify evidence and say it's real.  This is where honesty and integrity come in with us, because if we lose it, all evidence we present will be dismissed.  We need more people who are not afraid of backing up their story.  When you see a lot of these "ghost shows," sadly - much of the evidence you see isn't real and that's sad.  There are some exceptions, but you need to keep an open mind out for them.  It's okay to be a skeptic, but don't let it keep you from finding the truth in whatever you are researching.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How does the pop culture or common view of paranormal investigation/ghost hunting differ from reality, and what do you think of the investigation on television?  Are they legit?

Steven Wolff:
As someone who knows how the media machine works - they need drama, excitement, and intrigue.  Ghost hunting has a few of those things, but most true paranormal investigations are hours and hours of boredom.  Nothing happens, and then something does - for only a few minutes, then boredom again.  Kinda like fishing... you'll have the line in the water, the pole will bend and yank suddenly and you'll get excited while it's happening, hoping you caught the largest fish in the lake... and then it goes back to nothing.  That's Ghost Hunting 101, in most cases.  Granted, we've had cases where things happen right before we rang the doorbell, but it's not something the media people can handle.  It's hit or miss in ghost hunting.  I've been offered my own ghost "reality" show on several occasions and politely turned them down and here's why.  The way the media machine works is this: the more excitement and drama you can produce, the higher the ratings.  The higher the ratings, the more they can charge for advertisements during this block of time.  It's all about keeping the viewer tuned in, which is why you will see a lot of these "ghost shows" start off slow, and in season 6 (or whatever) everyone is freaked out, the graphics are spookier and there's spooky ambient sounds now playing during the show.  They'll show someone freaking out in the trailer to the next week's episode, but when you watch it, they only saw a spider or a rock on the ground that they thought was a ghost.  It's really sad that it's been hijacked (in my opinion) by the media, because they could care less about honesty or integrity.  They want to know "can you produce results, can you act, and can you be dramatic?" to which I answer, "No thanks."

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Steven Wolff:
If you want to follow me and get all kinds of links to Twitter, Facebook, etc, visit my website.
            If you want to buy any of my fantasy, horror or paranormal books, visit my website for links, or you can see what I have on Amazon by visiting my Author Page.
            If you want to read up on more ghost things, an archive of the South Texas Ghost Hunters Alliance can be found at our website.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by - and being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  I have really learned a lot from you.
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Steven Wolff:
Yes, I just want to say Thank you for having me on your blog and I encourage all of you to keep coming back and reading The Gal in the Blue Mask's blog site.  You are always writing interesting things to read. :) 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks, Steven.  I really appreciate that. :)


This photo is at the historic Alamo battleground in San Antonio, Texas taken during The Ultimate Ghost Hunt conference in 2002.  What you're seeing is what's believed to be a ghost orb that is emitting it's own light, taken around 10am in broad daylight with a 35mm camera.  Some ghost orbs can be confused with dust orbs, which are not ghostly or paranormal in nature, but are just reflections of dust.  This, however, is a ghost orb that is about 20 feet away, too far away to be a piece of dust.
            Perhaps it's a fallen soldier who's still doing patrols?  Who knows :)

Historical fact: 189 men took on 1,800 Mexican soldiers and took out 600 of them before they died and/or were captured.  The battle cry "Remember the Alamo!" was used to motivate the soldiers at the battle of San Jacinto - which worked!  The Texan soldiers won, changing the history of Texas forever.


The mother of the baby sent me a physical photo of her baby's 1st birthday.  Her grandfather passed away months before, and said that he wanted to be there for his grandson's first birthday.  The day before the birthday, she went to the store and bought a disposable camera just for the party.   In the middle of the camera is around where she took this photo.  When she developed it, she said that this is her grandfather - that he wore glasses and a hat just like in that photo, and the person to his right must be his wife who passes away.  The photos before and after this image did not have any elderly people in it; it was all just the baby and those who attended the party.  She believes this is her grandfather caught on regular 8mm film, sticking to his promise that he'd be there.


About the author:
Steven Wolff was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1971.  He went to Sul Ross, Holmes High School, and got his associates degree in Electronic Engineering/Technology from Hallmark Institute.  He moved to the Pacific Northwest where he pursues his dream of being a full time writer.
            Steven wrote his first book in 2009 and published it in 2012 and has been writing ever since.  He has written several books in different genres and has continued success with his first published book, Got Ghosts? Real Stories of Paranormal Activity.
            His latest book is called Self-Aware (A Zombie Series with a Fresh Twist) that was released on Amazon on Christmas Day, 2014.
            Steven lives in Vancouver, Washington and continues following his passion of writing. 
            For those interested in GotGhosts?, there is an hour of the audiobook for free on the front page of Steven's website for fans to enjoy.

video


4 comments:

taniesreviews said...

Great interview! I've added Steven's books to my tbr pile on Goodreads and reading about his experiences as a paranormal investigator was really neat.

Meghan H said...

Thanks, Tanya. He's a really interesting guy and I loved the opportunity to find out more about real paranormal investigation. I plan to read his books as well. :)

Glad I could help make your TBR list EVEN LONGER than it already is haha.

Author Steven Wolff said...

Thanks to both of you for the support and kind words! I'm honored when I can give you guys an interesting read. :-)

Meghan H said...

You're very welcome, Steven :)