The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

You know the books by Douglas Clegg. Now get to know Douglas.


Simon Clark
Dale Kaczmarek
Owl Goingback
Paul Tremblay
Joe R. Lansdale
Ramsey Campbell
John McLoughlin
Ray Garton


TRISH WILSON: Which of your characters speaks to you the most? Which one is most like you?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: "All of them and none of them" is my best answer. My need to tell stories has a lot to do with the conflicts and contradictions between the way life feels on the inside, versus how it plays out on the outside. I tend to love characters best who make missteps, but then I love people who make missteps, too. Perfection is over-rated.

None of these characters are much like me. None of them are the way I'd like to be, either. But all of them are from me. All of them speak to me. This is where writers get into "stories are my children" kinds of talks, but in some ways it's true.

David Cronenberg's movie The Brood comes to mind where these monster children come out from the mother's body and wreak havoc.

Writing characters, particularly narrators, is about slipping into the skin of a human being who exists solely in the imagination. And yet nothing I write is terribly impersonal to me, either, and not somehow from me.

It's the contradiction that makes the fiction.

TRISH WILSON: You've said in past interviews that Neverland was your favorite book that you have written. What is it about Neverland that makes it your favorite?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: That book has remained a favorite for many readers over the years. I'm not sure why Neverland feels important to me but I had a gut reaction to writing its world of childhood, family, summer, the South, and dangerous imagination. To examine one's own novels too much seems to invite freezing the experience of writing into a museum exhibit rather than an ongoing and lively concern.

I enjoyed writing it, though, and part of writing a novel is where you are in life and what's going on around you.

Makes me happy when so many readers over decades also connect with a novel the way readers have with Neverland. So that's part of my own favoritism toward that book, but I have other favorites, too.

TRISH WILSON: What was it like working with Hollywood in making the movie version of Bad Karma starring Patsy Kensit? Would you work with Hollywood again?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: It was great—for me. All I had to do was write the novel and have an agent. I got a call from my agent in Hollywood.

He said, "We have an offer from a studio."

"Great," I said.

Three months later, I get a call from my agent to tell me a big check's on the way.

"Great," I told him on the phone before thanking him. I put the check in the bank about two or three weeks later. At the time, it was a nice fat windfall for us, out of the blue.

That was pretty much my total involvement. The movie is not so good but Patsy Kensit was very good in it. Perfect, in fact, and I felt bad for her given the messy movie made from that perfectly filmable thriller story.

I think good movies are tougher to get done than they appear. It's a miracle that there aren't more bad ones. People who make movies have pressures that make me—a guy who writes at home—tremble with fear.

Would I work with Hollywood again? Does anyone ever answer: No, a thousand times nay,  never again?

I say, yes, yes, a million times yes.

TRISH WILSON: You wrote Bad Karma with the pseudonym Andrew Harper. What made you want to use a pseudonym? Under what circumstances would you recommend the use of a pseudonym by a writer?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: I did it for fun.

Under what circumstances to use a pseudonym? Any. Writers should do what they want when it comes to this stuff. If I were more prolific I'd have several pen names. Why not?

However, a writer also needs to make a name, and making one name is hard enough.  So that's the argument against pen names. Why assume that the readers of your stories don't also want to read other kinds of stories from you? If you have a voice as a writer, often readers respond to that voice as much as to the type of story involved.

I did eventually bury Andrew Harper alive in the backyard about ten or so years ago. Don't tell anyone.

TRISH WILSON: How have you used modern technology in regards to books? I'm thinking of Naomi, which started out as the first email serial novel in 1999.

DOUGLAS CLEGG: Naomi was the first time I thought about technology with books and apparently the first time a contemporary novelist who has published out of New York ever did such a thing, which helped it make international news when I self-pubbed to my newsletter…which didn't hurt my career one bit.

Presenting an entire novel to an email readership and writing it week by week became my way of growing a readership given that much of publishing was (and still remains) a "throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks" for the vast majority of novels. (Which, by the way, is a phrase I've only heard from people inside the book biz when describing frustrations in getting books noticed.)

When I was about to launch Naomi in early 1999, a lot of publishing people and writers told me I was ruining my career and…turns out just the opposite happened.  

All of this comes down to that age-old expression "necessity is the mother of invention," which could be turned to "invention is the child of necessity." Invent, reinvent, rinse, repeat.

TRISH WILSON: Alkemara Press is your publishing house. Does the name "Alkemara" have special meaning? How did you come to start the press?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: The word "Alkemara" is one I made up for my trilogy The Vampyricon. I wanted a unique name for our little press here, so there it was. In the novels, it's a lost citadel of an ancient world. And so I had this one ready-made for me, by me.

My husband and I started a small publishing company in my office after a long time of having my books published out of New York. And it has been wonderful.

We've kept new fiction coming out and past titles in various forms of print from Alkemara Press. If it weren't also for outside experts (proofreaders, cover designers, formatting software creators, accountants) we'd never be able to run this company from home.

Technologies and times change and you've got to keep up with them when it comes to "how people get hold of books and how writers make their livings now." 

TRISH WILSON: How has the publishing world changed since you began writing, in particular the rise of the ebook?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: I think it's less about the ebook as such and more book distribution in general which allowed for the rise of the ebook. This is a huge question and I really can't attempt to answer it because just like the marketing question, I'd have to write an entire book. I sold my first novel to New York in the fall of 1987. A lot has changed since then. It began changing in 1991, even. And it changed again in the late 1990s and then again around 2010. It keeps shifting and changing.

These are never subtle changes, but radical ones. Entire subsets of the industry rise and fall and then rise again, all going back to the question of: how do people get books in their hands today and tomorrow?

The first dedicated ebook reader came into being around around the year 2000. I still own one of the earliest models off the line: The Rocket eBook Reader. Still works (as long as I find its charger). In my opinion it became a missed opportunity in its subsequent iterations prior to Amazon releasing the Kindle several years later.

Right now, the basic movement for writers—with access to digital distribution of ebooks, audiobooks, and print on demand books—is toward creating cottage industries that can provide support so long as the writer produces enough fiction.  Access will keep changing to this, and a writer who wants longevity of their work will look around and see how best to connect to the readership.

TRISH WILSON: What types of marketing work best for you? What advice would you give writers in regards to marketing?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: Writing the best story one can, which appeals to a reader, is the best launch for any writer.  Marketing is an entire career for someone and there are great professionals out there who do this and spend all their time on it.

Best advice is either go to a publisher who knows the market, or if you self-publish, educate yourself as much as possible via research. Search engines are terrific for this. And there are a lot of books, classes, and writer organizations out there that deal with this topic, too. There are forums like Kboards, groups on Facebook, all kinds of places to interact, contribute, and learn.

The writer is the creative mind at work, and this same mind can be applied by considering the reader and how they want to read a book and where they already congregate to find the books. Libraries are key for readerships as are bookstores, whether online or offline. I predict a day will come when every website that sells anything will include a bookstore component, as well.

TRISH WILSON: You grew up in a variety of places ranging from New England to Hawaii. How did your youth influence your writing?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: I spent most of my childhood before the age of 20 in Virginia; Hawaii, and Connecticut, but all before the age of 9. We traveled a lot as a family in general and by the time I was 16, my parents both encouraged me to go on other trips, even to study overseas.

Then I moved to Los Angeles with another writer friend in my mid-20s when I realized I couldn't become who I knew I was (as a writer) within the same 20 mile radius of where I'd grown up because I needed distance from the familiar. Also, I went to work in television but then left that to write my first novel within about two years of arrival.

Prior to that westward move I'd spent a bit of time in Paris, too, where I wrote my first novel on a yellow legal pad and then destroyed it because it was pretty awful but I learned the habit of writing a novel-length work at that point. Sometimes I wish I could go back to Paris and find the trash can in the 11th arrondissement where I tossed that novel, although I’m pretty sure it was about nothing at all.

As a kid, I had a life-changing trip through Mexico, mainly archeological areas of interest. It opened my eyes to life, that country, its markets, its people, it's beautiful land and rich history. Oaxaca in the late 1960s was just a revelation. We went right after I'd finished fifth grade. The world got bigger to me and a lot more fascinating.

Hawaii, where I'd thought I'd been born until I discovered differently, has my earliest memories from about age three onward and because of the difference between Oahu in the very early 1960s (I was there when it was made a state, which is both a cool thing to say and also proved how old I am) and next-stop Connecticut, my memories are vivid of my earliest years, too. Crazy vivid.

For my writing, this offered up a variety of settings in order to conjure locations for stories. I'd crisscrossed the US by car about four times by age 26. This number went up quite a bit by the time I was 47. I love long road trips.

TRISH WILSON: What is your writing process?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: I avoid writing as long as I can until I realize it's easier to write than not write. But I write every day, regardless of anything else. I don't always make progress every day so if someone asks me on a day where it hasn't been optimal, I usually say, "I didn't get anything done," because that's what it feels like.

But that's never entirely true.

I've been writing fiction seriously since the age of 5, typing my stories since the age of 8. I wrote my first short novel by the time I was 17.  I just don't stop writing, although I have stopped showing things I write to anyone else, at times. I often tell people I'm not writing even when I am so I can avoid discussing writing where possible and just enjoy something outside of writing.

If you were in my office today, I could show you 26 notebooks with various novels and stories in progress. I love them all.   I write on note cards, in journals, on various typewriters, the laptop, and I even dictate at times. Whatever it takes to get it down.

Often, getting something published is just a side effect of all this. I’m not a 9-to-5er. I like the flow of the day and the writing becomes part of that.

TRISH WILSON: Did you have mentors early in your career who helped you? If you did, who were they? What kind of help did they give you? I've noticed some writers have had mentors and they've maintained professional relationships and even friendships with them.

DOUGLAS CLEGG: So this is an interesting question with a long answer required. Mentorship is often ill-defined.  I wanted to be among writers and bookish people from a very early age and this has been the major perk of being a novelist, for me.

My professors in high school and college were clearly mentors for me and I can name names going back decades of these teachers who brought the world of books to me. My parents were terrific mentors for my development as a writer. So many people, including long-dead writers who wrote about writing or just hearing their voice in their novels; and then friends who were also trying to figure out what writing for a living might mean someday. I didn't get involved in any professional writer organizations until after my first novel had come out and I’d sold two more in New York. I felt that I might’ve earned at least a tiny spot at the very far end of the writers' table by then.

I feel as if "mentor" when applied to a novelist is a loaded word and means different things to different people.  I got to know several accomplished and successful novelists after my first few novels were contracted-for by Simon & Schuster. I felt mentored by them, but they approached our friendship as colleagues. I asked questions, they gave wise counsel. These included but were not limited to: Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, George Clayton Johnson, Robert McCammon, John Saul, and too many others to list here. Stephen King wrote me a very nice note out of the blue after my second book came out, and frankly, he didn’t need to do more. What a bright moment that was for me. Peter Straub, too, although I met him and spent time with him much later in my career, but looking back, it likely was still mid-career when we spoke. Nancy Holder, Skipp & Spector, Peter Atkins, David Schow, Jesus Gonzalez, Bloch, Brandner, an entire southern California crew existed and we’d all hang out at different times. Bentley Little! That guys blows me away with his fiction. Kathe Koja, not a Californian, would come out for visits.

And Harlan Ellison. That guy was wonderful to me. Funny, edgy, lived up to his rep but I saw a soft side to him and he and his wife taught me a lot about how you can live in a house and make it part of your imagination. He was gracious to me, which surprised me. He had a rough edge at times among people, but I also saw how sometimes people just wanted  to get something from him (sometimes a reaction, even) and he did not suffer that behavior at all.

Unbelievable how formative the Los Angeles years were for me. Back then at least that city pulsed with writerly creativity.

It feels more than a bit name-droppy to mention them all, but they were flesh and blood wonderful people to me. It was before the internet, obviously, and you had to go to where the writers were in order to meet anyone at all.  

With Richard, Quinn, and Dean, I had very close relationships at certain points. All of them, generous-hearted people. Though Richard's gone, I feel as if he's still somewhere right around the corner and I still hear his voice now and then when I think of him. I find each of these people unforgettable. Johnson once scribbled down the rudiments of what a plot was on a cocktail napkin and I learned more in that two minutes from him than from all the years of study.

One person I shouldn't leave out is Don Mancini, who is a few years younger than I am. I met him through a writer friend and we hung out a few times in my mid-twenties, but most notably for me when I watched Body Double, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scarface with him.

He'd stop the movie on the VCR and say, "so Doug, that's where the screenwriter is telling the audience this through a character," and from these afternoons I learned a ton from him. Don had written a terrific script at the age of…23? It was called Blood Buddy, it read like it was already made, you could imagine every scene, every moment, and it went on to be the Chucky movie franchise, which he's kept alive all these years and really created a major horror icon from it.

From his mind. That’s what always blows me away about writing fiction of any kind. You’re creating from imagination and then it becomes something in the world and all you needed were words to get it going.

Don is and was an amazing person. Those early screenplays of his were remarkable, but learning about story and how dialogue worked in movies and what the intentions of the screenwriter involved changed how I saw movies and how I understood story. I met Don well-before I'd ever written my first novel, but not much before. I can't say he was the impetus for my writing it but he certainly got me looking at story in a new way so I felt I could write a novel.

I also took Robert McKee's course in L.A. I had left a lucrative job but was suddenly fairly broke but my parents gave me the money for the course out of pity. It was a three day intensive. After the class, I went to my little apartment and began writing my first novel. Six weeks later, the first draft was finished. McKee opened my eyes to story, also, in one single day. The course was like being thrown in the water and told to swim but also with a new understanding of how stories have underpinnings often unnoticed by a reader or viewer.

I knew magazine writers and screenwriters before my first book was published, partly because I moved through those industries in Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles before I finished my first novel. Therefore, I was learning alongside other young writers just by talking shop, sharing ambitions, hanging out.  I wrote nonfiction for publication early on, but fiction was the only thing I was interested in.

Now that I think of it, about five early childhood friends of mine also went on to write novels quite successfully. All those people were colleagues even though we didn't necessarily understand what that term might mean before the careers took off. And we learned from each other, and still do, though weirdly we never really talk about writing at all. The girl next door to me (when I was five) and I both grew up to be professional writers—she, mostly in television though she did write some excellent mystery novels for St. Martins Press, and me with novels and short stories. That still strikes me as a strange coincidence because I didn't see her or keep up with her at all after the age of 7 until we ran into each other years later in another state, toward the end of college.

 So I've met many writers over many years and in my opinion, stepping up to the bat and doing what writers are supposed to do (write), puts you in the league. And these slightly-older writers I mentioned earlier here really opened their homes to me in many ways.

Interestingly enough, John Saul and his husband Michael also gave me excellent relationship advice when I sat down with them. I was in a bad relationship at the time and they outlined what made a good relationship on a napkin. It's amazing how much I've learned from people jotting out a brief graph on a cocktail napkin. Anyway, within about two months of that conversation, I found myself with the guy I've been with for more than 30 years. Go figure.

And I'll end with: the best mentor for a novelist is a great spouse. I have one. Writing is a selfish life to some extent. You're home all the time. You're not on anyone's clock but your own. Your needs seem a bottomless pit. You become very anti-social. Or maybe it's just me. It takes a very wise and generous spouse to put up with that.

TRISH WILSON: Who are some of your favorite authors and have they influenced your own style?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: An endless list. But here are a few: Virginia Woolf, Marlowe, Ovid, Homer, Euripides, Petronius, fairy tales, world mythologies, Shakespeare, Dryden, Hawthorne, Poe, Henry James, Mark Twain, Daphne Du Maurier, Ford Madox Ford, E.M. Forster, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Keats, Wordsworth, Blake, Anna Akhmatova, Ray Bradbury, Beverly Cleary, Dr. Seuss, E.L. Konigsburg, Zane Grey, Willa Cather, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Lope de Vega, Thomas Mann, Moliere, Ovid, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, J.M. Barrie, Saki, John Collier, Stephen Crane, Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, the Arabian Nights, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sigrid Undset, Isak Dinesen, Ira Levin, Patricia Highsmith, Truman Capote, Thomas Tryon, Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, Stoker, Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Bronte, Chaucer, Boccaccio, Emily Bronte, George Orwell, George Eliot, whomever wrote Beowulf, Federico Garcia Lorca, Peter Straub, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson…

There are many more and I've left off most of the contemporary influences, of which there are a ton.

How have they influenced me? The same way life has. The same way everything does. When I read a book I love, it's as if a writer has allowed me to see through their mind to a world I've never considered. What a gift that is to receive as a reader. Language and imagination can be vivid and both allow the mind to draw breath and expand.

TRISH WILSON: Do you prefer to write short stories, novellas, or novels? What appeals to you about each form of writing?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: The story pretty much dictates its length. I've never written a novella that could've been shorter or a novel that could've been longer.  Well, wait, I have written one novella that later I thought could use an expansion, but hey if I ever write a screenplay for it, I'll do it there.

I love the novella form for horror fiction because the biggest problem of supernatural horror fiction is the suspension of disbelief. The minute a reader (or writer) can stop and say, "wait, who would actually do this?" or "that's one ghost too far," the effect of horror or disturbance loses steam.  

Your words have got to crawl in readers' minds and give them some nightmares now and then.

TRISH WILSON: You also write poetry such as your collection, The Poisoner's Garden and Others. What do you enjoy about writing poetry that differs from writing longer fiction?

DOUGLAS CLEGG: I approach poetry, even the lighter stuff, as seriously as I do writing a story of any kind. I sometimes do rough drafts of stories or sections of novels in free verse because the ideas and images can come fast and I want to get the essentials of it down on paper in a way that feels alive.

I have a long narrative poem (book length) in process called The Mermaid Cage that I work on at times and hope to finish before 2021.

The poem I'm most proud of in The Poisoner's Garden & Others is the most self-revealing, which felt a bit like getting undressed in public.

It's called Swimming in Underwear and I really debated whether to publish it or not because it felt too psychologically and frankly sexually intimate. Yet, it's not horror at all, it's simply about the experience of coming out to the self when young. And sex isn't depicted…well, not really. It sort of is there…

The title poem surprised me because I took what I consider a classical form and  turned it a bit around to being about two men (well, three men, I suppose) and drawing it somewhere between the meter and style of Poe's Ulalume and Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

That sounds academic, but the influences of poetry from Poe and Keats have been constant and meaningful since my childhood though the poem itself is entirely drawn from my interest in gardens, poisoned plants, and temples to Persephone.

TRISH WILSON: What releases are coming up soon for you? Can you reveal any news about your future plans? Also please leave your Facebook and web site addresses.

DOUGLAS CLEGG: I recently released a new novella or short novel, called The Faces, from Alkemara Press in ebook and paperback and should have an audiobook of it coming up this spring. Additionally I'm finishing two more short novels (although how short or long remains to be seen) called Mrs. Bluebeard and The World on Butterfly.

I created a Patreon.com/DouglasClegg group last summer and find this is a great way to invite readers to support the creation of this work and then they get the pre-publication first edition in ebook and audio of each story.

I'm releasing some stories throughout 2020 first through Patreon and after that to the various online booksellers. Members there are only charged their membership fee when I actually send them a story.

With luck there'll be some new novellas and short stories this year if the stars align. And possibly one novel. My dilemma with a novel tends has become: do I send this to a publisher or let Alkemara Press handle it? It's a genuine hesitation because I know all sides of that choice after all these years in this industry.

Ultimately, I'll do what keeps me moving forward, since everything outside that is someone else's business.

Best place online to find me and the books:


About Douglas Clegg


Douglas Clegg is a writer of imaginative dark fiction (including horror, gothic, fantasy, supernatural, and suspense thrillers) and has been a professional novelist since he signed his first book contract with Simon & Schuster in 1987. He considers much of his horror fiction as being on the surrealistic side of the equation, venturing into the logic of nightmare and dream.

His books have been published worldwide and translated into various editions. His short fiction has won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award and the Shocker Award, and has been included in several Years’ Best anthologies.

About Trish Wilson


Trish Wilson has written horror with the pen name E. A Black. She had enjoyed telling scary stories to a captive audience since she was a child. She grew up in Baltimore, the home of Edgar Allan Poe who has inspired her to write. Due to her love for horror and dark fiction she joined Broad Universe, a networking group for women who write speculative fiction.

Her short stories have appeared in The Horror Zine Magazine Summer 2019, Zippered Flesh 2, Zippered Flesh 3, Teeming Terrors, Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Heart of Farkness, and more. She won a Best Short Story mention on The Solstice List@ 2017: The Best Of Horror for Invisible, which appeared in Zippered Flesh 3.

She has written author interviews and fiction for The Horror Zine. In addition to horror, she writes erotica and romance as Elizabeth Black. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts as Elizabeth Black. Check out her web site at eablack-writer.blogspot.com. Sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/b76GWD She lives on the Massachusetts coast in Lovecraft country. The beaches often call to her, but she has yet to run into Cthulhu. 



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