Monday, October 10, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 10: AMONG THE STACKS: A.S. Chambers


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Austin.  Welcome to The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  It's an honor to have you here today, especially since you're releasing a horror anthology shortly.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

A.S. Chambers:
I'm a Lancaster-based author who writes mainly urban fantasy and horror.  I've been writing since people's TVs were much smaller and also black and white, but my first book, The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, was published in 2012.  This was followed two years later by Sam Spallucci: Ghosts from the Past and earlier this year by Sam Spallucci: Shadows of Lancaster.  I have also published three collections of short, quirky horror stories, the latest of which, Let All Mortal Flesh, is bouncing onto Amazon this month.

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

A.S. Chambers:
  1. I play a multitude of musical instruments and I actually sing Alto (for those of you who don't know, that's really high).
  2. I was turned down by the Church of England when I applied to be a priest.  To be honest, I was far too young and I probably wouldn't be doing what I do now if they had accepted me.
  3. I was a child carer to a disabled parent.
  4. The first horror movie I ever watched was An American Werewolf in London.  It left me terrified of muppets (we all know what scene I'm referring to here).  If I was ever left alone in a room with Kermit, I think I would scream and hammer on the door to be let out.
  5. I suffer from a long term condition called Meniere's Disease.  It is a condition of the inner ear that causes deafness, dizziness and tinnitus along with memory loss.  As a result, I have to have everything written down or programmed into my phone or it just doesn't get done.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

A.S. Chambers:
This was Piggle by Crosby Bonsall.  It was the first book that I ever borrowed from my local library, so I never actually owned it as a child.  This was soon rectified when I first discovered Amazon.

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

A.S. Chambers:
I am currently reading Jekyll & Hyde.  As well as writing, I am also a private tutor and I am delighted to see this classic make its way onto the GCSE syllabus.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

A.S. Chambers:
I have a real love for the Bernard Cornwell "Sharpe" books.  I feel that, as a writer, one should always read well outside one's own genre to stop one's work getting stale and repetitive so, one day, I picked up the first in the series.  I have been hooked ever since.  I really enjoy the way that Cornwell crafts believable characters that you would not be surprised to meet in real life.

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

A.S. Chambers:
I've always been a storyteller.  I was that kid on the playground who had watched Blake's 7 the night before and wanted to create his own episode using any number of andy (and normally unwilling) friends.  This just continued and progressed until, when I was at high school, I wrote a story about a private investigator and a werewolf when I was sat in the back of a boring chemistry lesson.  Sam Spallucci was born and the rest, as they say, is a rose-tinted cliche.

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

A.S. Chambers:
I tend to write between two places.  I live in a small two up, two down terrace, so space is limited.  As a result, if I'm writing at home, I have a small desk set up in the corner of my bedroom.  However, I normally get distracted by my hyperactive kitten and my neurotic dog.  As a result, I usually decamp to a local coffee shop where I find a quiet corner and nurse a black Americano for about three hours whilst getting funny looks from other imbibers when I start muttering to myself.

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

A.S. Chambers:
I'm a firm believer that a good story is based on realistic characters.  As a result, I try to spend a lot of time thinking about how my characters would see the world.  Now, if this is Sam Spallucci, then that's normally okay.  He may be a touch depressed, but he's an okay kind of guy.  However, when I was writing Ghosts from the Past, I really had to get into the mindset of the antagonist, Malcolm Wallace, who was not a nice chap at all.  I ended up getting quite paranoid and withdrawn.  When I had finished the novel, I actually had to spend a lot of time doing stuff which reaffirmed my faith in humanity.  It was quite intense.

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

A.S. Chambers:
Sticking to deadlines.  I am self-published, so not only do I have to write the books, I have to format them, publish them and then market and promote them.  I can end up spending far more time on the marketing than I actually do on the writing.  This can be so frustrating.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

A.S. Chambers:
In my second short story collection, All Things Dark & Dangerous, there's a short story called "Needs Must" about this creature that lives down the bottom of the well.  His food supply (humans) dries up and he decides that he must venture out of the well to see what has happened.  I really enjoyed writing this and it still makes me smile when I read it.  Not only this, but it was also published in The Black Room Manuscripts Vol 1 by Sinister Horror Company.  When the anthology was reviewed, one professional reviewer said of my story: "This is how horror should be written."  Can't get much better than that, really.  Needless to say, I was rather happy.

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

A.S. Chambers:
I spent most of my teenage years reading Stephen King, but the one book that remains my first love has to be Dracula.  That just gave me a love for vampires and how things fantastical can interact with things mundane.  As a result, vamps do tend to crop up quite a bit in Sam Spallucci's stories.  AS for my actual style, I always say that my books are written with a dash of Douglas Adams humour.  I love his work and the Hitchhiker's series is a colossus in fantasy writing.

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

A.S. Chambers:
Good characters.  If the audience cannot understand why a character does something or finds the hero terminally boring, then they will turn off and stop reading.  I have read books where there have been loads of action, love interest and wow factor, but I came away unfulfilled as I knew nothing about the protagonist.  If a reader cannot tell you what the name is of your book's central character, then you are doing something fundamentally wrong.

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?

A.S. Chambers:
For me, a character has to be consistent and believable.  They can't be a hero one minute, then a coward the next.  They can't be a shy mouse but an expert lover.  I want to feel like I can picture a character so well that I could walk into town and point them out if he or she walked past me.  When I create my characters, I have a strong visual image in my head which I drip feed to the reader over time so that they gradually get to know my creation.  I am also constantly making notes of what they do, so that I can refer back to it correctly at a later date.  The attention is in the detail.

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

A.S. Chambers:
This is quite hard to answer.  Readers immediately jump onto Sam and say that he must be like me as he is a similar age, suffers from Meniere's disease and is like me, a vegan.  However, there are different parts of my personality that I tend to impart upon other characters as I create them.  This means that I can understand them better and know what they will be thinking and how they will react to the situations that I throw against them.

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?

A.S. Chambers:
I'm not a fan of a cover that has been photoshopped to include so much lens flare that it looks like it was edited out of a J.J. Abrams movie.  I prefer simple covers that relate either directly to the storyline or present the feel of what you should expect from the books.  My first Sam Spallucci book, I chose to use just a full moon as the climax of the storyline involved werewolves.  For the second and third in the series, I discussed at length with the artist exactly what I wanted.

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

A.S. Chambers:
It's hard work but it's also rewarding and fun.

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

A.S. Chambers:
There is a scene at the end of "The Case of the Gambling Ghost" in Sam Spallucci: Shadows of Lancaster, which was totally organic; it grew itself.  I had sat down to finish the story and was typing away expecting the ending in my head to appear on the screen.  Instead, something very different materialised and it was so emotionally draining that I had to walk away and rest for a few days before carrying on with the rest of the book.

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

A.S. Chambers:
The Sam Spallucci books are quite unique in that they are a blend of urban fantasy and film noir with a splash of dry, black hunour.  You have the horror elements in there, but you also have the sense of fun that carries the story along and makes it an enjoyable romp.

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)?

A.S. Chambers:
I think it's something that the author shouldn't lose too much sleep over, but the title does need to be relevant.  I once read a book called Blue Equinox which bore no relation to the title whatsoever.  The author dropped the word "equinox" into the story once in an attempt to tie the material and title together, but it just left me scratching my head.
            With my books, the titles of the Sam Spallucci books are a direct reflection of the story and content.  With my short story collections, Oh Taste & SeeAll Things Dark & Dangerous and Let All Mortal Flesh, I utilise either direct titles or altered titles from hymns and anthems which create a quirky feel before the reader digs in.

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

A.S. Chambers:
That depends very much on what I've just written.  I get immense satisfaction from completing a novel.  The fact that I have managed to string together something coherent over so many pages is always a great feeling.  However, exactly the same thing can be said for certain shorts.  To be able to tell a good story in a few words is also very satisfying.  This is why I am always writing both.  I make sure that I keep myself inserted in my work an alternate the different skills that I require.

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.

A.S. Chambers:
As I mentioned above, the Sam Spallucci books are a blend of urban fantasy and film noir.  My short story collections are more horror based, albeit quite quirky.  As for a target audience, I don't really know that I can put them all into one category.  When I sell my books at conventions and signings, people from all walks of life seem to buy them.  I think the one thing that seems to connect them is that they are all looking for something a bit different and, so far, my book seems to be providing that for them.

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

A.S. Chambers:
I've just completed Let All Mortal Flesh and when I started to compile the stories, I found myself in the unusual predicament of having too many.  I like to keep my anthologies quite short so people can use them as quick reads, and as a result, there is a very low page count.  There was one story I wrote called Memento which centered around two characters I had introduced in another book.  Scorpion and Tigress were a pair of female vampires who ended up spending time with a humble carver as one of them recuperated from a life-threatening wound.  I won't say any more about the story (spoilers), but I loved it.  It worked perfectly and I was really excited about publishing it.  However, there was one problem.  It was far too long.  I already had two lengthy stories which had to be in this collection as they led into my next Sam Spallucci book, so I had to make the cut.  Memento will finally see the light of day in my next short story collection, Mourning Has Broken, which is due out in 2017.

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

A.S. Chambers:
Okay, so I'm going to answer 23 and 24 (a question about any books or projects that are in my trunk) together.  As those who have read my Sam Spallucci books and certain ones of my short stories will be aware, there is a lot of stuff going on in the background.  I am constantly laying little breadcrumb trails and giving crossovers between stories.  In truth, this is because I am playing the waiting game and I am in for the long haul.  When I was a teenager, I wrote a "novel" (I say that quite loosely) called Fallen Angel.  It was basically about an angel who got framed for a crime he did not commit and got booted out of Heaven, then fought his way back.  I came back to this manuscript the year before I wrote the first Sam Spallucci novel and revamped it.  The story made more sense, had a great deal more depth and was far more readable.  The only problem was, it read like the end of a series rather than the beginning.  So, what we are seeing with my books now, is the journey towards Fallen Angel.  If readers are sharp-eyed, they will start to pick up references to things that will come about at a later date and will lead into the events of this, my magnus opus.

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

A.S. Chambers:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks, again, for stopping by, Austin.  This book - your magnus opus - sounds fantastic.  I'm going to have to start reading about Sam Spallucci so that I'm ready.  :)
            One more thing 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?

A.S. Chambers:
I just want to say a really big "thank you" to all those who have read my books and extend an especially big show of gratitude to those who have reviewed them on Amazon or Goodreads.  Us authors are very fragile and for every book we sell that does not receive a review, part of us curls up in a corner and rocks morosely back and forth.  I hope you all continue to enjoy my stories.  Keep with Sam and his exploits right to the end and beyond.   The Divergence is coming, and it will be a blast.



About the author:
By day, A.S. Chambers is a mild-mannered genealogist, armed only with a tweed jacket and a finely sharpened HB pencil.  By night, he is the top-hatted creator of the long-suffering Sam Spallucci - investigator of the paranormal and all things weird.
            The first outing for Sam was The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, published in 2012, where the poor chap suffered such unfortunate tasks as babysitting a new born vampire, tracking down an angst-ridden poltergeist in a local high school, and overcoming a lycanthropic zoo-keeper as it bayed for his blood.  Sam Spallucci: Ghosts from the Past followed in 2014 and the third in the series, Sam Spallucci: Shadows of Lancaster, saw the light of day in 2016.
            As well as books concerning his beleaguered investigator, Austin also whips out the occasional short horror story from time to time.  The first compilation of these, Oh Taste & See, was published in 2014 and, like the second compilation, All Things Dark & Dangerous, is available to buy as an ideal present for your dear old Gran.  (Let's face it, she'll prefer these books to those mint imperials that you bought for her birthday last year.  She was young once too, remember!)
            Austin has a Facebook page which he would be delighted for you to follow as well as the obligatory collection of ramblings in the Twittersphere.
            There is also a lovingly crafted website for you to peruse which fills you in a little bit more about his work and has the relevant links to Amazon for his books.


About the books:
Welcome to the world of Samuel C. Spallucci, whiskey drinking, chain-smoking, trumpet playing, sci-fi watching investigator of the paranormal. 
            When we start a new job all we normally encounter is overbearing managers, jealous co-workers and a dodgy toilet that needs that certain wiggle to make it flush.  During Sam's first week, based in the small university city of Lancaster, he is abducted by a cult of Satanic actors, has to babysit a newborn vampire, investigates a teenage poltergeist, and escapes the clutches of a werewolf that works in a local zoo.
            Not your usual first week on a new job, but certainly one you will never forget.



The Case of the Satanic Suburban Sitcom
The Case of the Vexed Vampire
The Cast of the Fastidious Phantom
The Case of the Paranoid Poltergeist
The Case of the Werewolf of Williamson Park


"Anything is possible."  Sam Spallucci is back and this time he is approached by his ex-girlfriend, Caroline Adamson, to investigate the mysterious self-help cult Credete which has clawed her son into its seductive grasp.  At first Sam dismisses Caroline's claims as fanciful, but when he encounters an old face from his past and people start to die, he realises that there might be more to the group and its powerful leader than he had first thought.  This, combined with his best friend's obsession to blag his way onto a popular antiques show and supernatural visitations regarding a forthcoming apocalyptic event, means that once again the peaceful life of the whiskey drinking, chain-smoking investigator of the paranormal will be turned upside down.  In this, the sequel to The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, A.S. Chambers continues to combine  horror and wit in a film noir style to bring you the second outing of his most popular creation.


Welcome to the third installment of the adventures of Sam Spallucci - Lancaster's very own beleaguered investigator of the paranormal.
            Having survived a week that never was, Sam is hoping to settle down to a more relaxing lifestyle involving Lucky Strike cigarettes and a smooth bourbon in his favourite public house.  However, a frustrated grotesque from the roof of a local church is only the start of a new set of problems.  From bondage-loving banshees to marauding mummies, the unfortunate Sam is dragged kicking and screaming into a world of historical hatred and prejudice as old family feuds are reawakened and one of Lancaster's lovable characters become the centre of a witch hunt, forcing Sam to question his own occupation.


What lurks behind that locked door?  What do they keep in that biscuit tin?  Why would two beautiful women really want to date the office sleaze?  Are false teeth capable of jealousy?  A.S. Chambers provides answers to these questions and many more in this collection of short horror stories concerning such themes as vampires, cowboys, confectionary and dentistry.  Have a quick taste and see just what lurks in the shadows.


Are monsters that lurk down wells just victims of circumstance?  Can you push your gifted child too far?  What can really excite a bored fallen angel who has been stranded on Earth since the beginning of time?  How do vampires learn to hunt and is it always successful?  A.S. Chambers explores these questions and unravels more dark tales in this, his latest collection of short horror and fantasy stories.  Come, take a walk in the shadows, but always keep glancing over your shoulder because what lurks there might very well be dark and dangerous.  A.S. Chambers is the author of the Sam Spallucci books: tales of horror and urban fantasy regarding a whiskey drinking, chain smoking investigator of the paranormal based in the author's home town of Lancaster.


What could possibly be worse for your health, smoking or the cure for the common cold?  Is a former wild child, now in her final days, still able to defend herself from the not so romantic advances of a past lover?  Can an oppressed wife use a dinner party as a means to release herself from her overbearing husband?
            As well as these quirky tales of horror, A.S. Chambers also draws to a close the Justice & the Nightingale vampire trilogies.  In doing so, he paves the way for the well-loved characters to explode back into the world of Sam Spallucci: Lancaster's beleaguered investigator of the paranormal.
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