Friday, October 7, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 7: AMONG THE STACKS: I. Clayton Reynolds


For those of y'all who don't know Clay, he is an up-and-comer in the horror world.  He has a lot of talent and is just an all-around good guy.  I have the honor of working with him as an editor on a novel project that he's been working on, and anyone who has dealt with me as an editor knows that I don't pull any punches when it comes to your writing... and I also don't sugar coat things.  He really is good and I can't wait until horror fans can get their hands on this book.  

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Clay, thanks for stopping by and being Day 7 in The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  I know you didn't want to come on last year because you were worried that you weren't "enough of an author yet," so I'm really glad that you decided to join us this year.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I. Clayton Reynolds:
If I was a cookie, what kind would I be?  I'd be a monster cookie.  I'm a little bit of everything excluding anything healthy.  I chase knowledge and hope someday I catch it.  I know a little about a lot and not enough about anything.  I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to sports, though.  In my day job, which until recently was a night job, I assist people affected with mental illness transition to living independently.  I have a degree in Anthropology and History focusing on North American Archaeology and History and Environmental history of the U.S. West.  I lived the first half of my life in North Central Texas and am living the second half in Central Iowa.  That ratio may change over time based on the time of my death.  I am married and my wife and I have three children.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
  1. My freshman year of college at the University of Texas, I had a class with Owen Wilson.
  2. I was briefly a long distance runner in high school.
  3. I have been tattoo free since '73.  (That means I have no tattoos.)
  4. My kids' names have a nautical theme: Saylor, Marina and Seaton.
  5. I spend more time building and modifying guitars than playing them.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book  you remember reading?

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Wacky Insults & Terrible Jokes by Joseph Rosenbloom.  I think that might say a lot about me.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I am slowly working my way through Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz.  It is wonderful so far.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Probably one of Jim Marrs's books: Alien Agenda: Investigating the Extraterrestrial Presence Among UsCrossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, or Rule of Secrecy.  Total conspiracy theory crackpot stuff, but I loved those.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
It's hard to say.  Every time I think I have that pin-pointed, I think of something earlier on.  My friends and I would create characters, mostly characters we would draw.  It started out as us envisioning Snoopy from the Peanuts comics as a mad scientist type and evolved into these characters we called "Cooldudes."  I would take some of those characters and plot out stories.  For example, Cooldude Columbus who sailed from Cooldudia and discovered the New World.  I don't remember which of my friends originally created Cooldude Columbus, but he was my most popular character.  This went on from about third grade through eighth grade.  I wrote a history of Cooldudia's fight for independence and Cooldudia's discovery of the new world in book form in seventh grade.  Someone stole the book.  I don't know who.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I like to write in a recliner on a laptop, preferably after everyone else has gone to bed.  Switching to day shift has really slowed down my writing because I go to bed first now.  I need to find a new place to write.  I'm working on that.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I keep trying new things hoping I'll find some new secret.  I've found that I just like to write by the seat-of-the-pants method until I get deep enough into the story that I am unlikely to remember every detail, then I write out a brief scene list and character list to refer to as I continue.  The scene list will get updated frequently, because stories never go where I think they will.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Re-writing and editing are something I have trouble motivating myself to do.  Other than that, I really have a hard time writing the climax of a story.  I think most writers thrive on that exciting peak of the story, but it intimidates me.  Fear of "falling apart in the third act."  I see that criticism of many stories.  I never want that to be like that.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I would have to say Ivy, my novella.  It has been so well received, and it really is not like the other things I write.  Plus it's the longest thing that is actually published.  The story I've submitted for the Halloween in December event at The Gal in the Blue Mask is satisfying as well.  It's a story I've wanted to write for years.  It is inspired by true events, some strange happenings in small town Texas.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
This question should probably just automatically include Stephen King.  He has inspired so many of us who write from the darkness.  Pet Sematary was my first grown-up book and I was hooked hard.  I consider Peter Straub's Ghost Story to be the most inspiring work I've read.  I read that one and thought this is the kind of book I want to write.  While I don't always enjoy his work, Chuck Palahniuk's quirky style has had an influence.  The two influences I feel the most as I am working are Joe R. Lansdale for his near perfect capturing of the flavor and voice of rural Texas, and Robert R. McCammon who has a great ability to intertwine the story of people and place with just the right amount of horror and terror.  I consider Boy's Life not only to be among the few best books I've read, but also a great and near perfect work of horror.  Most would not classify it as horror at all.  More of a magical coming of age story.  I find the horror all over that book and it runs deep.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Everything at once.  The right mixture.  Characters, plot, story, structure, pace.  It has to all be there.  But more than anything I have to care about the characters.  Give me something with which I can connect and relate.

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?

I. Clayton Reynolds:
The character needs to be relatable.  Each character is the hero of his or her own story and that needs to come through.  In my writing, I need to know why, even if I don't want the reader to know why.  What are this character's motivations?  Those motivations may be practical or they may be dark and deranged, but there must always be some kind of reward for the action in the mind of the character.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
While no one but my editor has actually read it, there's a character by the name of Chance Avery is my forthcoming novel, Cross Timbers.  I did my best to base his behavior on how I might have reacted in his circumstances.  In the writing process I pictured a younger, prettier version of myself as that character.

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?

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Honestly, book covers don't matter all that much to me.  I mean, if it's painfully amateurish and sloppy, I guess I might figure the book might be the same way.  But as far as design elements and all that, I don't judge a book by its cover (-1 for cliche).  I have created all of my own covers thus far.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
The crushing self-doubt is real.  Generally the first third or so of the book feels great, then it just hits me that it is probably all terrible.  Getting past those moments are very difficult, almost crippling.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
The climax of Cross Timbers.  All those months building up to it and I knew it had to deliver.  That's a lot of pressure to put on myself.  That crushing self-doubt was at it again, that scamp.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
The universe in which my writing lives is full of dark things hiding in the shadows and monsters long dormant but not dead.  My intention is to write stories of people who exist in that world.  Their story may only bring them into minimal contact with those things, or they may have to engage them head on.  I think one person will read my work and think it is horror, while another will not see it that way at all.  It's always story over genre.  I think it's that way with all great authors.  As Joe R. Lansdale advises, "Be your own genre."  That's what I intend to be.

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)?

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Book titles are important to me.  I don't know that in the great scheme of things that they matter all that much.  I have been known to write a story based on a good title I thought up.  My short story Handsome Devils is an example of this.  I mean there are many generic titles out there that get repeated.  Things like The Lost or The Rising.  Titles don't need to be extraordinary.  In my own work, though, they mean very much to me.  I really love it when there are multiple meanings.  Ivy was simple.  The protagonist is named Ivy, and the story has to do with her ivy garden.  Cross Timbers was meant to bring up the symbolism of a large wooden cross, but also represents the setting of the Southern Cross Timbers area of Texas.  I have been known to agonize over a title.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
The two are so different.  When I finish a short story, I'm fairly satisfied that I put it together pretty well and reading it is going to be a nice way to spend your lunch break.  I feel at peace when finishing a short story.  A novel, however, is daunting.  Somewhat terrifying.  It's huge, and keeping everything straight is a challenge.  When finishing a novel, I feel like I've really done something.  It's summiting a mountain, finishing a marathon.  But, it is so much harder to judge how good it is.  So that takes away from my satisfaction.

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.

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I write mostly horror.  Some stories like Ivy are suitable for most any audience.  My short stories tend to be less family friendly.  Themes vary.  In some cases, I like to show how humans are the real monsters.  In other cases, I like to show how helpless we really are against our own fears.  Mostly I hope my readers just take away a slice of the human experience and how we are simultaneously fragile and resilient.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
While these things certainly happen, I don't have any specific examples that would relate to my current body of work.  Sometimes I get stalled on one character and spend way too much time on that small character's back story when the character is not significant enough to warrant all of that.

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?)

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I have four novels in different stages of development.  I have a private eye story that is over halfway. I have a western that is probably going to take priority.  I have a story of an isolated corporate town where things don't quite add up.  And, I have a... we'll call it a werewolf story, even though that's not exactly what it is.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:
Cross Timbers is ready for re-writes, so hopefully it will see the light of day soon.  Beyond that, see question 23.

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

I. Clayton Reynolds:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks again for stopping by.  I'm glad you decided to finally take me up on this offer.  I'm looking forward to these books you talk about in the future... and for Cross Timbers to finally see the light of day. :)
            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?

I. Clayton Reynolds:
I would like to say that it is a pleasure to be included on this blog and I want to thank The Gal for all the support she has given me.  And to my readers: If at all possible, please leave an honest review on Amazon if you read my work.  Even if you hate my work, your review can help others.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to read all of this.


About the author (referred to by the author as "Canned Author Bio" haha):
I. Clayton Reynolds is an author of horror, suspense, and the supernatural.  He studied Anthropology, Psychology, and History at the University of Texas and Iowa State University.  A native of Texas, he now lives in Central Iowa.  Through his studies, he has gained extensive knowledge of legends and beliefs from around the world and deep into the past.  His research has helped him to understand how and why frightening legends and cautionary horror tales have developed throughout the human past.

About the books:
Tiny rootlets grip and crawl.  Vines slither imperceptibly slow along the walls.  Waxy green leaves choke and suffocate all in their path.  Ivy, it creeps.
            After a post-war industrial boom, Ivy and her husband find themselves wealthy and ready to live out an idyllic life together.  When they build their dream home, Ivy grows nostalgic for her namesake vines that covered her childhood home.  When a shadowy gardener delivers on her desire, her life begins to spin out of control.  Death lurks in every dark corner and there is no escape.


A wooden elf Christmas decoration found in a box begins to reveal sinister secrets to a blind girl and her family.


Tack and Jim are looking for women.  When Lacey and Janelle meet them at a night club they have no idea what the night has in store.  It won't be like any hook-up they've had before.


In the small town of Orchard Springs something is coming.  The signs are in the air and in the townspeople.  And one young man, seemingly immune, struggles to find answers.

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2 comments:

I. Clayton Reynolds said...

No comments? This was a pleasure to do. Thank you for the opportunity.

Meghan H said...

People need to comment more on blog posts they enjoy. Seriously. :)

It was an honor to interview you, Clay. Thanks for participating... and for stopping by to say hi.