... Kathryn Meyer Griffiths
1. Tell me about your book Evil Stalks The Night - revised authors edition and where you got your inspiration for it?
Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition was my first published novel in 1984 and as it is rereleased again on June 1, 2012 from Damnation Books, it will bring my over forty year writing career full circle. With its publication all fourteen of my older books will be out once more for the first time in many years. Originally Evil was a fictionalized look back at my childhood in a large (6 brothers and sisters), poor but loving family in the 1950’s and 60’s. I tentatively titled it 707 Suncrest. Straight forward fiction with nothing supernatural in it. In the beginning anyway. I never started out to be a horror writer, it just happened. When I was first writing this book so long ago, I was a young recently remarried woman with a small child holding down my first real job as an assistant biller at a trucker company (later I became a graphic artist) and trying to do it all. Such a crazy, exciting, busy time. Around 1980 I’d begun sending the book out to publishers hoping one of them would want it. I mailed it everywhere for months and months; no luck. Then one day an editor suggested that since my writing had such a spooky ambiance to it anyway, why didn’t I just turn the story into a horror novel. Like Stephen King was doing. Ordinary people dealing with supernatural circumstances? A book like that would sell easily, she said.
Hmmm. Well, since I loved reading horror anyway, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods in the main character’s childhood past which she had to return to and face in her adult life, using my childhood and also my young adult life–my heartbreaking divorce, raising my young son alone, my new love–as hers. It was more of a romantic horror when I’d finished, than a horror novel. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and began sending it out. That editor was right, it sold quickly to a mass market paperback publisher called Towers Publishing.
But right before editing Towers went bankrupt and was bought out by another publisher! What terrible luck, I remember brooding, devastated. The book was lost somewhere in the stacks of unedited slush in a company undergoing massive changes as the new publisher took over. I had a contract and didn’t know how to break it. Heaven knows, I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My life with a new husband, my son and my minimum-wage job was one step above poverty at times. In those days, too, I was so naïve. I thought once I was published I’d be flush with money and fame. Silly me. Nothing’s ever that easy.
That was 1983, but luckily that take-over publisher was Leisure Books, now also known as Dorchester Publishing. And it’d become an even bigger company than Towers. Talk about karma.
As often as has happened to me over my career, though, fate seemed to step in and the Tower’s editor who’d bought my book, before she left, told one of Leisure’s editors about it and asked her to give it a read. She believed in it that much.
So out of the blue, in 1984, when I’d completely given up on Evil Stalks the Night, Leisure Books sent me a letter offering to buy it. I didn’t get a lot of money. A thousand dollar advance and only 4% royalties on the paperbacks. Yet in those days the publishers had a huge distribution and thousands and thousands of the paperbacks were printed, sent to bookstores and warehoused. So 4% of all those books over the next couple of years did add up.
Thus my first novel was born. It went out of print many years ago until Kim Richards Gilchrist of Damnation Books/Eternal Press asked me in 2010, after she’d contracted two of my newer novels, if I’d like to rewrite and republish it; put it into an ebook , along with all the rest of my older novels, for the first time ever? Of course, I said yes…and on June 1, 2012 Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition will live again.
2. When did you first become interested in writing?
As a child, eight or nine (same time I began drawing pencil pictures and years before I dreamt of being a singer with my younger brother Jim), I began reading library books. Science fiction, historical romances and scary books. I had six siblings and though I had a loving mother and father, a loving family, there was very little money. I can’t say we were poverty poor, but we were poor at times. Sometimes our meals were scarce and we rarely had extra money for toys or outside entertainment. I think in my whole childhood my father only took us out to eat once. Try paying for seven kids and two adults. So we learned to entertain ourselves. Played outside. Climbed trees and hid in deep dirt gullies. Sang, howled really, outside at night on the swing set.
But, oh, how I loved to read. The library books were free and plentiful. I’d sit on my bed, especially during the long summer days and evenings (after chores, of course) and read one amazing book after another. If I was lucky, with a chocolate snack or cherry Kool-Aid nearby. Those books, those words on the page, took me to other places, times and worlds. It was magical. I got lost in people-on-a-spaceship-going–to-some-faraway-planet books. There was this horse book when I was a kid that knocked me out, made me cry, and laugh with joy at the end it was so real and so full of pathos because I loved horses so much. Sigh. I never forgot how those wonderful books made me feel…so free. So adventurous. So rich. Like I could be or do anything someday. And when I grew up I wanted to create that magic for others. So…that’s why I began writing. When I get depressed over things at times, I remember that.
I also recall vividly one day at school (I must have been 10 or so) when a box of Weekly Reader books were delivered and we got to pick one to read. The smell of those new books in that box as I looked at them, the excitement and awe of the other kids and the reverence for those authors, and I thought: Wouldn’t it be something if someday a box of these books were mine…written by me? Oh, to be an author. People respect an author. It was the beginning.
3. What was the first thing you wrote?
I actually began writing my first novel, The Heart of the Rose, after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, not going to college or working, and was bored. I read a horrible historical romance one day and thought I can do better than that!
So I got out my old typewriter with the keys that stuck, my bottles of White-Out, carbon paper for copies, and commenced clicking away. I was going to call the book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer loved by Edward the Fourth who was falsely believed to be a witch. At the library (no computers or Internet back then) I did research into that time in English history: the War of the Roses, the poverty and civil strife between the Red (Lancasters) and White Rose (Yorks); the Earl of Warwick and Edward the King. His brother Richard the Third. A real saga. Well, all that was big back then, but I was way out of my league. Didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote. Reading that original version, a paperback released from Leisure books in 1985, now I have to laugh. It was pretty bad. All that archaic language I used (all the rage back in the 80’s). Yikes! But people, mainly women, liked it.
That was 40 years ago. It took me 12 years to get that first book published as I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, and having to get a real job. Life, as it always seems to do, got in the way. The manuscript was tossed into a bottom drawer and forgotten for a while.
Then one day years later I found it and decided to rewrite it; try to sell it. With more time and life under my belt, perhaps I could fix what I thought was wrong with it. I bundled up the revised pile of printed copy pages, stuffed it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. I sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market of that year said I could. And waited. Months and months and months. In those days it could take up to a year or more to sell a novel, in between revising and rewriting to please any editor that would make suggestions or comments. Snail mail took forever, too, and was expensive.
In the meantime as I waited, I wrote another book, Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition, which was eventually published first and then a year later, The Heart of the Rose followed.
4. Was there ever a time when you nearly gave up on becoming an author?
Gosh, only a million times over the last forty years. Though, in my case it was remaining an author that proved to be the problem. There’re been so many ups and downs, I’ve lost count. After my first published novel in 1984 I thought: I’ve finally made it! Wrong. It seemed every novel or story after that still had to be fought for tooth and nail. Even in 1994 after seven published books…I went nearly eight years unable to give a book away. Eight long heart-breaking years. What was I doing wrong? Wasn’t I good enough? Was there a curse on me or something? I couldn’t figure it out. I nearly gave up then forever. But I couldn’t stop writing and sending my manuscripts out. At my lowest point in 2003, I stupidly sold two hard cover serial murder mysteries (really good books I thought) to Avalon Books in New York for a $1,000 dollar advance each. Ten year contracts. I was proud because they were my first hard covers. The problem I found out much later, when it was too late, was this insidious little clause in the contract that stated “no royalties until 3,500 copies are sold”. They only printed 1,500 or so at a time. And according to them, each year when I request them, the sales figures are still below that level – the same exact numbers two years in a roll now…which means I’ve never received one cent of further royalties. Not one cent. Not a royalty statement. Ever. Hmm. Talk about a rabbit hole. But the books are for sale everywhere on the Web so how could I not sell even one copy in a whole year? (This is a warning to all authors…stay away from Avalon Books.) Now it also looks as if I’ll have to battle to ever get the rights back, even after a decade, because the publisher claims as long as there are copies in the warehouse, my contract stays intact. Read the tiny fine print. They’re thieves, is what I think. But, again, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Never again sell to that company. I’ve learned many such lessons through the years.
Finally the dry spell broke. In 2010, I contracted two of my newest books with Damnation Books/Eternal Press and then agreed to rewrite, update and rerelease twelve of my older novels in print and ebooks with them–and now they’re all out again. These last two years have been good. This year I enjoy being an author.
5. What advice would you give to someone still trying to become an author?
It’s the journey, not the fame or fortune that should drive you. You must love to write. Do it for the right reasons. Have patience. Learn the craft of writing. Be humble. Never give up. Think of the writing not as a sprint but as a long marathon or life journey. A real writer writes because she/he has to. It’s like breathing. A source of happiness. Sometimes an obsession. We have stories to tell and we must tell them. For most of us there isn’t a lot of money because not all writers make the big bucks…of course, e-books could change all that. I’m hoping. I started out as a midlist writer during the big publishers’ reign and pretty much have stayed on that level. Over the years I’ve made lots of money for all my publishers, but no so much for myself. I’ve been in transition now the last six or so years going to the e-book publishers. Catching up with the changing times. The rereleasing of my old books, the advent of e-books and the Internet, bloggers and review sites have opened the field. I hope to keep writing and publishing and someday perhaps make a moderate income. New writers must be prepared to bleed. If someone had told me 40 years ago, when I started writing, that I’d be where I am now all this time later…I think it would have freaked me out. Such a roller coaster ride. I might have given up. Yet I didn’t and now, with all my strange experiences and battle scars, I can proudly say I’m a writer.
6. What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?
Reading, of course. I love a good science fiction or paranormal book. Being with my family, my son and grandchildren. Singing and jamming with my singer/songwriter brother, Jim. (He does all the original songs for my book trailers.) Let’s see…what else? Oh, I love to walk in the woods on a misty cool morning, gaze at the twinkling stars at night; feel a soft breeze kissing my face. Drawing pictures when I have the time, though writing seems to take most of it lately. Traveling in the U.S. National Parks call me. Woods. Trees.
7. What was your favorite book as a child?
A book called Smoky…about this horse. I don’t recall much of it anymore, it’s been so many years ago, but I do remember it made me feel sad, scared, hopeful and exultant when the horse’s tale had a happy ending. Then there was this one 1957 SF novel called “The Door Into Summer” by Robert A. Heinlein. It had a cat in it that got left behind in the past when the main character is double crossed by his friend and is sent to the year 2000. So sad. But I loved that book, too. Since then hundreds more have I loved.
8. What was the last book you read?
Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon. I’ve read many of his novels and really like them. Storytelling at its best. Dan Simmons is great, also.
9. If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?
That’s easy! Our world peace. Or our world without wars or aggression…and women ruling. Then the position I’d accept on the alien planet would be Earth’s Peace Ambassador. You never said if the aliens would be peaceful, though. You know, my thought has always been: If any way-beyond-our-technology aliens take the time and trouble to come all across the galaxy to our little planet…they’re not here for anything good. They want something. Something we probably won’t want to give them. Just my theory. In truth, if aliens appeared in front of me, I’d probably run away quick as I could.
10. If you could be a superhero what kind of super powers would you have?
The power to fly or to time-travel. Both would be so neat. Wow, no more money for gas. No more time wasted traveling in cars, planes or trains. And being able to travel back to any time, date, day, minute I wanted to relive or spy on.
11. Where would you like to go if you had a time machine?
Back to a day in my childhood, circa 1960….to see my family again all young and just starting out….my six siblings (one, a brother, was murdered young at 15), my mother, beloved father and Grandfather and Grandmother Fehrt still alive, young and laughing and smiling with us kids around the dinner table; then later us kids out playing in the fields after dark and afterwards watching Twilight Zone and Zorro on a summer’s night. Oh, for just a day to watch from the shadows, smiling, at my long-ago family, I’d give about anything.
12. If you could speak to one kind of animal what would it be?
A cat. I’ve had cats all my life. Each one different and unique in its own way. I adore cats. I sure would love to talk to a feline and finally find out what they think about. What they think of us and if they really love us.
13. If you could have one piece of technology from a sci-fi film or book what would it be?
A transporter, for sure. I could travel anywhere, anytime for free in milliseconds. I’m terrified of airplanes so I could finally vacation in Ireland and England like I’ve always dreamed of doing.
14. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek, definitely. They’ve had so many more fascinating characters and series than Star Wars. All the advanced technology. The Federation had so much power, too. We beat every alien’s scaly butt. I loved Generations, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Data and Captain Kirk. Spock. Picard and Riker. Captain Janeway was my hero. Now that was woman power.
Thank you so much, Sonnet, for having me here on your blog. I had a great time, warmly, author Kathryn Meyer Griffith. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I love to hear from my readers.
Twenty years ago psychic Sarah Summers fled from the evil that lurked in the woods behind her childhood home after it killed most of her family, but a nasty divorce and financial hardships forces her back when nothing else could. With her son, Jeremy, she returns to her grandmother’s dilapidated house and tries to begin a new life. She meets a man, police detective, Ben, who falls for her, and she prays her fresh visions of bloodshed and death deep among the dark trees are not true. Then the murders begin again and Sarah is hurtled back into the familiar nightmare that has haunted her her whole life. The evil in the woods is awake again…and this time it wants her last remaining brother, her son…and her. With Ben and Jim’s help can she defeat it this time…and live?
EXCERPT:Desperate, Jim got up and, grabbing the wheel, slammed his foot over the driver’s on the brake. They fought for a few wild, dizzying seconds then the bus zigzagged with a sickening crash into an embankment on the other side of the road. People were tossed against the windows and thrown to the floor in heaps. The silence was deafening. Smoke engulfed the bus. Jim had been dumped on the floor again and knocked out cold.
When he came to, he had no idea how long he’d been out. It could have been minutes or hours. The only hint was it was still dark. He woke to an eerie silence and propped himself up on an elbow to survey the damage. So far he was the only one moving. “Damn,” he moaned, staring around at the indistinct forms littering the bus like corpses. The driver was slumped over the wheel, unconscious.
What had happened to the car?
Jim didn’t know what drew him, but he crawled over to the open door and fell outside into the wet grass. He took a deep breath of fresh air and tried to stop his head from spinning. How many were dead in there? It was his fault.
“I can’t take it anymore,” he whispered, looking up into the bus’s blank windows. There was blood all over him and burying his face in his hands, he cried, “I give up!” He yelled into the woods. “Anything you want!” He released a long sigh of defeat. “You win!” There was a great hush as he spoke. Something stirred in the wind. The darkness was silent. Jim didn’t move.
“Jimmy?” The voice, a child’s voice, startled him and he looked up.
“Jimmy, what’s the matter?” A gentle, caring voice.
It took Jim a minute to understand. “Charlie?” His eyes grew wide. It was Charlie, as he’d looked so many years ago as a small child, standing patiently above him in the dawn’s twilight. He was smiling at him and clutching his mangy old cat, the one he’d slammed the door on by accident, and lopped off part of its tail. The one he used to torment to no end.
Jim’s mouth went dry. But Charlie was dead! Charlie was…
“Oh, it’s me,” the ghost child chuckled, petting his cat and looking amused.
“Charlie! My God! Where did you come from?” You’re dead, he thought but didn’t say. Instead he groaned, “What do you want?”
He was quivering. Did this mean he was dead, too? Jim jerked his head around and saw the smoking hulk of the bus behind him.
Was he dead, and didn’t know it yet?
“Oh, Jimmy, are you hurt?” The small ghost reached out its pale hand towards him as if to comfort, but Jim recoiled in fright.
“Don’t touch me,” Jim cried. He stood up unsteadily and propped himself against the trunk of a nearby tree. His eyes never left Charlie. “Am I dead, too?” There was cold sweat beaded on his face. “I don’t feel dead.” He ran his hands over his arms and down his body. The blood had dried on his face and hands, he wasn’t bleeding anymore, so it must mean something. He felt shaken, bruised and sore, but not dead.
Charlie was laughing at him and Jim gaped in amazement at the remnant.
He’d seen a lot of terrible things in his life, had been aware of existences most people would never experience in their lifetimes, but this took the cake.
He’d never thought he’d see Charlie again. Not in this lifetime…not in any.
“You want me to tell you if you’re dead or not?” Charlie chortled again.
Jim put up his hand as if to ward off evil. “No, I don’t want to know.”
“What do you think?” Charlie was floating a few feet above the wet earth stroking his stiff cat in long, gentle strokes and it made Jim’s teeth itch to watch him.
“I don’t really know.” He eyed him suspiciously sideways. “I don’t feel dead.” He mulled over the notion he might be in the Twilight Zone this time for real. No, it wasn’t likely, he felt too normal. “You’re not real.” He glared down at Charlie. “I’m hallucinating this whole thing.”
Charlie shook his head and slowly floated away.
Jim closed his eyes and prayed when he opened them again, Charlie would be gone. It didn’t work. “This isn’t happening.”
“Stubborn.” Charlie giggled. “You’re a silly goose, Jimmy. Like always.” The child had stopped at a distance and was grinning at Jim from behind a tree.
“Go away,” Jim moaned, as he slid down to the ground at the base of the tree and hid his head in his hands.
“I can’t go away. I came here to help you, Jimmy. I wasn’t very nice to you when I was alive, so I owe you something. You and Sarah were my favorites and now she needs us. I can help.” The eerie voice was sincere but Jim sensed fear, too. What could a ghost be afraid of?
About Kathryn Meyer Griffith...
(in her own words)
Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and have had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel and two murder mysteries) previous novels and eight short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.
I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-four years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha and live cat Cleo, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die.
http://www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith (to see all my book trailers with original music by my singer/songwriter brother JS Meyer)