Roma Gray is an amazing, terrific horror author.
With “Haunted House Harbor” just released, and jewels like “Jurassic Jackaroo” or “The Hunted Tribe” on her shoulders, among many other books and anthologies, she’s stealing the heart of hundreds of horror readers.
And tonight, she’s with us and we couldn’t be more excited!
You started writing when you were so young, let’s talk about that. How does a little girl start a novel?
I started writing because I loved Halloween and all of the spooky stories around it. I guess it was natural to start writing my own stories, then I just started writing more and more until by the time I was 13 I had created a full novel. I never published it…I don’t even have it anymore. But someday I’ll re-write it and publish it.
I owe my 13-year-old self that.
You do! I would (and many other readers) ABSOLUTELY adore having such a piece!
What’s your inspiration? How do you work?
Halloween is my big inspiration. Nothing ever felt as good as those days when I was a kid.
As an adult, I can enjoy the calming side of writing. You sit quietly and have a chance to focus and craft the story until it satisfies you on both an intellectual and emotional level. Great fun.
That is the perfect balance in men, I mean, books. Books. That might be one great tip to other writers: “Do not give up until it satisfies you on both an intellectual and emotional level.”
You’re so prolific, what book did you have more fun with?
I think Jurassic Jackaroo. I had always wanted to write a book like this, with super smart criminals (and a few good guys mixed in) competing in a contest with a monster lurking in the wings. But I always wondered, how do you write about super smart people doing clever things unless you are…well…super smart? So the book never got written. Then last year, I promised this book to the publisher. All of a sudden, the book I couldn’t figure out how to write had a deadline! So every morning I’d sit at my computer and write, with no idea of what was going to happen…and every day, to my shock, the chapters came together. It was like the book wrote itself, and I was just reading it. Total magic. Never will happen again in a million years.
I completely understand, because it’s just the same to me when I draw, my drawings just appear, I have no control over them (so… not my fault when they’re disturbing and inappropriate…!)
Your characters are so real and full of human defects. Who’s your favourite, get more connected with?
The Grishla in The Hunted Tribe and in Jurassic Jackaroo. The readers have only seen his darker side; he’s been hiding in the shadows, always just out of view. But in the sequel to The Hunted Tribe they will soon learn he’s not a dumb animal and fairly complex in his own right.
You know, I haven’t finished it yet but, I thought exactly the same. I’m on Grishla’s side. When I was reading I thought, “Go Grishla!” you know… I think I’m the only person in the world who cried when they killed Godzilla… It was so sad, but many people can’t understand. I think we are extra SENSIBLE.
Have you ever had the need of removing a part of a book because it was too hard?
No, I’ve removed sections because I didn’t think they contributed to the story, but fiction is fairly easy to write. You just make up stuff.
Perhaps this honesty to your own stories is what makes the difference and makes your stories be so unique and special.
Your parrot. Please, we want to know.
Haha! He’s my baby. He is a rescue bird. A family bought him for their little girl and she grew up and became a teenager who no longer had time for the little guy. I found him in a pet store, 6 years old and desperate for love and attention. Of course, the baby birds were selling and he wasn’t. The way it always goes for pets, everyone wants the young animals. Anyway, I thought he was adorable and I bought him. My best decision ever. He’s the most cuddly little love bug on the planet. Whenever I’m writing (like now) he’s on my shoulder snuggling.
The little girl named him Houdini, but he doesn’t answer to that. He answers to Baby (one of the only words he can say), Buttercup, Butterbaby, Bugaboo and a few other silly nick names I have for him. He kind of doesn’t have a real name, which is odd.
Awwwe!!! but that’s so adorable, he loves you because you loved him when no one did. It reminds me of a fish I had, a goldfish, that I found in a store. He had been born with only one eye, and I took him because I thought no one would. He died in a month, but I want to think he died happy and in company.
How do you relax?
I like to paint, walk my dog and cook. I’m into baking bread right now.
I bake an excellent banana bread and, you paint and you haven’t ever told me? When we finish this you need to show me *sparkles*. I made a drawing for you time ago I never showed you! haha (things happen, I’m a shy fan LOL).
“Celebration of Horror”. I loved the title because family events are already scary and disturbing at some point. So you have made it go beyond and turn it into ultimate terror holidays. Tell us about it.
When I was 14 my Mom gave me a book called Murder for Christmas because she knew I like horror and the ironic. I thought the idea was hysterical! I always swore I’d write a book like that, and for that reason, nearly all of my short stories take place on the holidays.
“Hysterical” that IS the word. When I saw it I jumped thinking “THIS. THANK YOU.”
The book that inspired this is sitting in a bookcase next to my nightstand.
I need to know the author.
The Grishla. A Jurassic creature and western. Honestly, what an amazing mix. How??!
A Native American tribe called the Dwanake have been stalked for the last five hundred years by the creature. Their legend says their ancestors tried to enslave this reclusive animal spirit and it is now hunting them, hell bent on killing all of them as punishment. The legend itself is cursed, and other Native American tribes who knew about them (none in modern times, lost across the years) refer to the Dwanake as “The Hunted Tribe” (the name of my first novel that takes place in modern times) since just saying their name will enrage the creature.
If you think about the concept of animal spirits, if you accept for a moment that they are real (and maybe they are, I can’t prove otherwise), why would they be limited to animals that have existed alongside humans like eagles, bears, wolves, etc? Why not a dinosaur animal spirit?
THIS is why I love you, sincerely.
Part of the fun of the western is that the first time dinosaurs were mentioned in a scientific paper was in 1824 and the book takes place in the 1890s, so the general population was just learning about these amazing creatures at this time. During modern times we’re all completely in awe of these amazing creatures, but what would it have been like for them back then? Probably blew their minds.
Another fun aspect of a dinosaur animal spirit, is that animal spirits are always described as being intelligent, sentient, and able to speak and interact with humans. Well…if that was true…what would become of an animal spirit that had 65 million years to mentally develop? This isn’t a dumb animal. In fact, it would be smarter than humans. Way smarter. A dinosaur animal spirit would be highly evolved; it would be like meeting an alien from an advanced civilization.
There’s really so much to explore here beyond the simple monster-hiding-the-shadows concept. It will take multiple books to do so, and I think the readers will be surprised where these books go.
(We) readers know we can expect anything from your books. That’s what makes you a so special author.
“HHH” (Haunted House Harbor) book 8 of Project 26. Zombies and a haunted house, plus demoniac forces. Really, you’re the boss on mixing terror stories. How did you come up with that?
When I was asked to write a haunted house novel by my publisher, I couldn’t think of anything original to write. Which was a pity, because I always wanted to write a haunted house story. Anyway, I took a walk with my dog and just started thinking about different scenarios. It entered my mind that another difficult topic to write was an original zombie story. That’s when my brain combined the two.
I think my horror-fusion stories are a result of my mother’s comments when I was a teenager. When I was a kid, she always read my stories and said nice things. As I got older, though, she got tougher. She’d almost always say, “This story isn’t original enough. I saw something like this on Twilight Zone…” or Night Gallery or on some other such thing. I’m sure she was right; I was heavily influenced by these television shows. But I loved writing about vampires and monsters and anything Halloween! Unfortunately, so do a million other writers. So, I started combining topics, creating something I hope is original and fresh.
I love your mother.
I enjoyed sooooo much that book, but I need the second one! Are you already working on it?
HHH2 is already partially written, yes 🙂
I need to be beta reader or something, because I can’t wait.
Blue Bell. I LOOOOVE it, how did you come up with it?
About two years ago, I was asked to take part in an anthology that focused on clown horror stories. I never could come up with anything and miss out on the opportunity. Then, as I developed this story, I wanted to show other supernatural creatures and their reaction (or involvement) in the apocalypse. But I wanted something a little different, something a little unexpected (rather than a vampire or a werewolf). A demonic clown seemed perfect.
But how to present him? I then remembered a true story about a demonic doll in an occult museum by the name of Annabelle. I also recalled a movie titled “Magic” where a ventriloquist started killing to please his dummy. So, I combined the three concepts and came up with something new and hopefully terrifying.
VERY terrifying, that’s why I loved it. Yes I know about Annabel, I have seen many movies about her, she’s an awful creature, good inspiration’s choice! No doubt. And she exists, which makes it even better. I mean, for a terror lover like me. For the others, no. Definitely.
Do you have new projects? Can you tell us something about it?
I’m working on The Hunted Tribe 2 and Haunted House Harbor 2. I have not started Jurassic Jackaroo 2 because once again I’m stumped on how to write it. I’m hoping it will come together on its own like the first one did.
They will, and we’ll be waiting for them!
What are your fave terror characters/inspiration? Your first horror book? What brought you into terror?
Dinosaurs and lake monsters. They are both fascinating and terrifying.
What brought me into horror was my love of Halloween. It still makes me feel like a kid. My first horror novel was The Hunted Tribe. When I was younger and writing novels, I wrote sci-fi. I still love sci-fi, but it’s not as much fun as horror.
I love them too, lake monsters in special. I have always found fascinating horror stories located in the water because lakes and oceans are monsters itself. Too bad I can’t write because I have good material!!
If you had to gift the best book ever, which would it be?
Relic by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston.
I have homework to do.
Your musts as a writer?
Coffee. Lots of it 😉
My musts in a story are the story must be exciting, must have a strong character element, and lots of foreshadowing leading to a bigger story.
WRITERS! Mental note. When I draw I feel the same. You need that “BOOOOM!” element.
In a writing environment, my musts are my laptop. I don’t write long handed, although I know some people do. I can type fairly fast and can get down ideas fast this way.
Any anecdote you want to share with us?
I’ve often said that I started writing because my friends and I would tell each other ghost stories on the way to school, and I loved that. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone the story about one time when one of those stories came true.
We were walking home and had to walk by this church. My story that day on the way home was about a pirate whose ship had been captured, and he hid on the grounds of a church. The problem was, his bag of coins was so heavy that when the soldiers came looking for him he had to abandon the money. This is when we entered the church grounds and there was this paper back in the bushes. I laughed and walked over and said, “See? Here’s the money, still sitting here…” but when I pulled open the bag it really was filled with money! Not Spanish Doubloons, but pennies, dimes, quarters, etc. I had found a homeless person’s stash by accident. We left the money there…but still, it blew me away!
You know that money was cursed and you condemned that homeless person right??
Favourite author? Mentor?
Kathryn Meyer Griffith of the Dinosaur Lake books has been an invaluable mentor and friend. Another inspiration is J. Tonzelli who wrote a book The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween. Like me, he loves Halloween and his Halloween Girl story was particularly chilling.
I need to check it out.
What do you do when you’re blocked and nothing comes out?
Walk the dog. She’s very muscular now, haha.
“Who has a muscular dog, has a muscular owner.” or was it backwards?
What advice would you give to amateur writers? Lessons you’ve learnt from experience?
- Learn to self-edit your books, but still have two other editors look at your work as well. It takes many eyes to find all of the problems in a book. Don’t use editing programs, they can set you up for a fall.
- Be careful not to let criticism cripple you. Just think about their advice and do what makes sense or drop it. Believe in your vision, publish it, and move on to your next project. Many times in my life I stopped writing due to someone’s harsh comments. I actually don’t use beta readers anymore for this reason. I’m too susceptible to self-doubt. I now know it’s better to have a published book that is possibly flawed but true to my vision than an unpublished book that has been torn apart and pieced together by multiple beta readers who all had different opinions anyway.
Oh, I see I’m not going to be your beta reader *sniff…* but I can be your first reader anyways! (pretty please) And, very well said, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, as long as your piece (whatever it is about) is made with care and well edited, it will get to its own public.
What’s your dream?
To give up my day job and write full time.
You’ll get there, and I’ll be here to say “I told ya.”
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You can find her books here (click on the covers)