An interview with author James Watts

I am delighted to welcome on my blog author James Watts, whose debut horror novel Them was released by HellBound Books spring 2018.

Tell me a little about yourself James. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I grew up in the small town of West Jefferson, Alabama. Born in Birmingham, Alabama on March 17, 1976.  A few years after high school I moved to Panama City, Fl for around 10 years. I moved back to Alabama 5 years ago and currently live in my old home town of West Jefferson.


At what age did you realise your fascination with horror?

It was pretty early on, around the age of 6 or7. My older sisters and brother were always watching horror films. Especially my sister Tammy. She introduced me to Nightmare on Elm Street. And my sister Eugenia and her boyfriend, now husband, took me to a drive-in to see Friday the 13th.


When did you start writing?

Around the age of 11. I was using the library more and more around the 4th grade and discovered the Hardy Boys. Loved those books. And not long after I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand”, and knew after that I wanted to write. Between my love of comics and novels, I eventually tried my own hand at it. And it was terrible, but I kept going.


Who are your favourite authors to read? Who inspires you in your writing?

My son Bailey is my inspiration to keep pushing on. My favourite authors include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, John Saul, Anne Rice, Peter Straub, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Matheson.


Tell me a little about your latest book?

 Them is a horror narrative set in the small Alabama town of Maple Grove and took a little over a year to finish, mainly because I was working in security at the time and was constantly working.

The fictional town of Maple Grove is actually located around five miles from my hometown of West Jefferson. By knowing the area so well, it was easier to tell my story. It doesn’t end with familiar surroundings either. There is a lot of me in this book, different smaller parts of me in every character. For instance, the protagonist Ray Sanders moved to Florida to escape the pain of betrayal. I did the same thing. Although, our reasons for returning are different. Now as for Ray’s childhood, it was pulled from my own to a certain extent.

The story itself focuses on Ray overcoming his insecurities and to be the man he must be in order to destroy the evil that has hovered over Maple Grove for over a hundred years, and to break the hold it has over his bloodline. Mind control, creepy animals, and vividly eerie dreams make this task almost insurmountable.

“In the small town of Maple Grove, Alabama, an ancient evil resurfaces to claim its right to life and the human race be damned. When Ray Sanders returned to Maple Grove to attend his mother’s funeral, he never planned to have to overcome all of his insecurities in order to save the town from an evil as old as time itself. For over a hundred years, the town of Maple Grove has suffered from the deranged minds and unquenchable hunger of parasitic creatures not of our Earth. Once before in a sacrifice of blood, the forces from beyond were locked away presumably forever. Now they have returned, hungering for their chance to evolve. It will be up to Ray Sanders, his cousin Roy, and a woman either them recall to stop this evolution and prevent the reign of these ageless creatures before their evil can spread.”

What are you working on now?

A new horror novel. It involves a vagabond of sorts running from supernatural encounter in his past. After fifteen years of traveling, and five years of that running from an old evil, Benjamin Belvedere finally finds what he thinks could become his home in the Alabama town of Jericho Hills. But you cannot run forever from some things and the evil has followed him. An demon a couple of centuries old in the form of a little red haired girl with pigtails and a sundress and the spirit of a Lycan elder filled with Hell fire.

Thanks for the interview James, and all the very best with your book, Them, which sounds very very creepy! My review to follow soon.


Grab your copy on Amazon or all good retailers.

You can find James on Facebook at:

Twitter @james2go34


The Legacy of Old Gran Parks cover reveal!

I’m thrilled to share the cover of my latest novel, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks, available from 24th February, 2018. It’s a dark comedy thriller and I had such a lot of fun writing the story. Big thanks to all the team at HellBound Books for believing in my work and being generally amazing! A huge thank you to local photographer Wesley Stephens for his photo of Point Hicks lighthouse, and a very special mention to local resident and dear friend Cassarndra Skarratt, without whom this book would never have been written. ‘Gran Parks’ is available for pre-order too – see below. Stay tuned for details of the official launch on 12th May at the Cann River hotel!

Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.

It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.
Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whisky and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.

All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next to Miriam, thrashing about in the night.

Gran Parks is stirring. Who will survive? Who will get away? Who will stay?

Pre-order you Kindle copy now!

Stunning *****5 star review***** of The Cabin Sessions!

For once I am sharing a review of one of my own titles just in on Amazon. It isn’t every day an author receives such high praise.

The Cabin Sessions – for those who like their horror dark and psychological.

Talk about being blown away.
If you are in search of a stonking read with delicious descriptions – chilling horror (very psychological in places) and perfect prose then this is the book for you.
The horror was delivered with sophistication and stealth – so much so that when I wanted to pull back or run for cover I couldn’t.
The story telling is masterly and I would class this book – author, as a modern day classic.
Unique- individual- and unapologetic.
To me was as good as a holiday- I love that feeling you get when a read has reached every wanton corner of your psyche and cleaned up!
Thank you to the author for a truly defining read!” – Amazon reviewer Kathleen McCarthy

Thank you Kathleen, for making my day!

You can read more Amazon reviews here


The Moon must be feeling ecstatic, a bit like a film star having been awarded an Oscar. Perhaps now a little deflated knowing the glory was momentary and soon the wonder will fade and the moon will have to go back to its regular cycle of waxing and waning.

Photo by Heather Riddell

Is the lunar hype warranted? Is the Moon really super and blue and blood all at once and how can this be? ‘Super’ kinda just means big because the moon is close to the earth. ‘Blue’ can mean there are two full moons in the one calendar month, or that there are four instead of three full moons in a season, or that there are two full moons occurring in the one zodiacal sign. The media latches on to the calendar blood moon, whereas astrologers tend to go nuts over the zodiacal variety. A blood moon occurs when there is a total eclipse and the sunlight is refracted through the earth’s atmosphere. What are the chances of all those three occurring at once? The analysis abounds.

But what does it all mean? Other than revealing how obsessed we are with slotting occurrences into categories and reading tons of significance into them?

Everyone gets excited when the moon does something special, as though deep in our ancestral brain lurks an echo of the days of the ancient goddesses. I guess thanks to the hype most of us know that for the ancient soothsayers of Mesopotamia, an eclipse augured the death of a king or even the end of times. It was a reasonable belief. In the millennia before there was any astronomical explanation for an eclipse, let alone a blood moon, seeing the moon glow blood red would have been awe-inspiring if not down right terrifying.

But in the final analysis the super blue blood moon doesn’t mean much. It only means what we want it to mean. In astrology, the moon’s motion is said to trigger events if it touches a sensitive part of a horoscope and sets off some significant configuration. That’s about it.

For me, the super blue blood moon presents a cheeky newsjacking opportunity.

I couldn’t resist a newsjack! After all, the moon won’t mind. So I grabbed an image of her slipping into blood-rich darkness and popped her into this:-

The Cabin Sessions

Review: Worship Me by Craig Stewart

I’m thrilled to share my review of Worship Me by Canadian author Craig Stewart. Worship Me is a fast-paced horror novel that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Something is listening to the prayers of St. Paul’s United Church, but it’s not the god they asked for; it’s something much, much older.

A quiet Sunday service turns into a living hell when this ancient entity descends upon the house of worship and claims the congregation for its own. The terrified churchgoers must now prove their loyalty to their new god by giving it one of their children or in two days time it will return and destroy them all.

As fear rips the congregation apart, it becomes clear that if they’re to survive this untold horror, the faithful must become the faithless and enter into a battle against God itself. But as time runs out, they discover that true monsters come not from heaven or hell…

…they come from within.


Worship Me is a story of terror and demonic conversion. A foreboding atmosphere greets the reader from the opening paragraph and by the second chapter, when Clara and her minivan collide with a cat, the reader is hooked. Stewart displays the twin talents of superb story telling and excellent pacing, along with satisfyingly rich and evocative descriptions.

Every story is born of an idea, or a premise, and Stewart’s is a strong one; he has the ability to conjure in the mind of the reader that his is a story worthy of being told, a story albeit as old as religion itself. Worship Me satisfies on a literary level, Stewart peppering his narrative with witty turns of phrase, especially in his character descriptions:

“Gary’s wife, Tina, lived on the bright side of things; you could tell she was a permanent resident there by the inexplicable glow that she carried wherever she went.”

All the characters in Worship Me are crafted with a sharp eye; the result is a cast of believable and largely unlikeable church goers of varying degrees of devotion; the congregation of a typically small-minded tight knit and remote community.  Enough complexity in the early part of the story holds the attention, the pace quickening about a third of the way in, when a preternatural wind gathers pace “like a bulldozer careening through a supermarket.”

From then, the story becomes a gripping, heart-palpitating read, the reader turning this way and that, maybe even away from the page, certainly feeling as frantic as the characters, who each display their unique traits, for better or worse, as they battle to make sense of and handle the situation they are in.

For anyone familiar with Nick Cave, think a book length O’Malley’s Bar. The terror is unrelenting.

Worship Me by Craig Stewart is available on all platforms.

Or grab your copy here

Catch up with the author here.

Review: Blood in the Woods by Joe Willie

Continuing my horror novel reviews, I’m delighted to share my thoughts on J.P. Willie’s Blood in the Woods. Horror fiction comes in many forms and this is a novel with broad appeal far beyond horror fans.

“For Jody, growing up in the late eighties and early nineties in the small Louisiana town of Hammond with his best friend Jack was filled with wonderful childhood memories.  Time spent playing in the woods, shooting pellet guns, blowing up mailboxes, fighting at school and upon the dawning of interest in the fairer sex, their carefree lives typical of children with few responsibilities and no worries beyond the next pop-quiz or getting to second base. As they grow older together and experience the joys and pains of life, love, family and friendship, they uncover a grim secret that their home town has kept, and through little more than an innocent, idle curiosity, Jody and Jack stumble upon something horrific in the woods and their lives quickly take a most sinister and dangerous turn as they find themselves hunted by an unspeakable evil…”

Blood in the Woods takes the reader into the back blocks of southern of America, God-abiding territory, and devil worship and dark rituals lie at the heart of the narrative, pulsing a backbeat. The prologue not only sets up the story to come, it demonstrates the longevity of the evil taking place in the woods around Hammond, secret practices that have been going on for decades.

The story opens with the narrator, a veteran recently returned from a stint in Afghanistan, coming to terms with his past. Through the lens of a man examining his childhood, Blood in the Woods  is as much a meditation on boyhood and coming of age as it is a tale of terror. The narration is warm, conversational, the narrator self-effacing. Jody and his friend Jack love to run amok, inventing games and having adventures and always in trouble. Yet their escapades are innocent, and deep down they are both good kids, and the reader cannot help but be charmed by them. Willie’s storytelling reminds me of Tobias Wolff’s in This Boy’s Life, especially in the early parts of the novel, and to begin with the narration has the flavour of memoir. Little wonder, as Blood in the Woods is based on truth.

To Willie’s credit, his account of the sorts of evil practices going on in Hammond and its surrounds is measured and balanced. Through the eyes of both Jody’s grandfather, Jerry, and a fast-food cook come Satanist, the author is at pains to explain that not all cults and not all who worship Satan are evil and do bad things. Making this point early in the story, and reinforcing it later, serves to offset prejudice and ignorance, enlightening the reader without labouring the point.

Entertaining and chilling in equal measure, Blood in the Woods is an earthy and believable story, one laced with social realism. The story has soul, it lives and breathes. The horror simmers in the background, popping up now and then over the backyard fence with ever increasing intensity, until it breaks out in a gripping, breathtaking finale.

Without doubt, Blood in the Woods is a novel that deserves a wider audience. Sometimes genre labels shackle a book, especially when many readers are spooked by the very word ‘horror’. If that is you, don’t be put off! You’ll be missing out on a highly entertaining read!

In conversation with Donna Maria McCarthy on Gothic fiction

When I decided to review Biddy Trotta gothic novella by Donna Maria McCarthy, I had no idea what I was in for. I haven’t read gothic fiction in a long while and I certainly didn’t anticipate coming across a work as much subtle as it is absurd, as much vivid as it is dark and dense, a work profoundly evocative and masterful in its execution. An accidental find I made as I walk the path of dark fiction.

It was a discovery that led me to ponder many things. So I invited Donna Maria McCarthy to chat with me about gothic fiction, as I prepare to write my debut in the genre, and am immersed in studying the form. I hope you enjoy reading my questions and Donna’s answers.

Donna Maria McCarthy

I often wonder what leads a writer into the dark side and what compels them to stay there. You’ve been writing gothic literature for many years now. What are your thoughts on the matter? What makes you write dark fiction? 

For myself (this is no way a board stroke) I cannot say any one thing compelled me or altered my mind from the age of reason until now. I know many authors have either personal  tragedy or adversity fuelling their fires but I cannot say that I have – at least nothing that occurred to me in the first instance as Gothic Horror even from a very young age inspired me. I say Horror but would say that my first love came from Alice in Wonderland,  which although a strange observation – I find quite dark and a little Gothic.  Obviously life enriches us all and whether it is through pain or pleasure we all become more rounded individuals – and how we pluck inspiration from within or draw on experience is in no way an indication of personal character at least for my mind. I had someone recently ask me how I managed to write such horrors – it was eye opening as she was truly astounded by it – I simply replied that anyone’s imagination on close inspection might be held up to critique and that authors are a brave and honest breed. I’m not sure she liked it but I’m not sure I enjoyed what she inferred.
I believe you are right. I think nothing reveals the whole human mind (and not our best face, the one we like to project on the world) better that dark fiction. In this sense, authors of dark fiction are laying themselves bare. Before I started writing horror, I had no idea how broad the genre is and how many different kinds of horror fiction there are. Gothic fiction is special. It pre-dates the horror genre by centuries. Who are your favourite Gothic authors? Who have been your biggest influences?
Hopefully I don’t sound boring but on leaving school (where early classics were hardly touched upon) I became bewitched by the following – not only their more famous works but by everything they wrote:
Dante Alighieri
Bram Stoker
Robert Louis Stevenson
Mary Shelley
Oscar Wilde
Henry James
Victor Hugo
Alexander Dumas
Emma Orczy
Arthur Miller

There are many more and more contemporary ones too.

An impressive list! I currently live in Australia, where a form of Gothic literature has emerged, one rooted in bleak settings and dark Colonial history. I wonder if Gothic is the right label for such works, and no doubt purists would bristle at the broadening of the definition. Yet if we narrow the term Gothic to stories set in creepy old ancient houses on the edges of cliffs, things start to look stale and old. What do you think makes a work worthy of the title Gothic?
That’s a great point and I’m not sure I can answer it! People have always referred to me as very soulful and Gothic and called my writing this with no prompt. I have to be honest, I never picked up a book because it was Gothic and I never intend to write that way, so the question has befuddled me. It’s incredibly perceptive too as I have been thinking on it recently. If I had to answer I would say that which distinguishes Gothic Horror from other types of Horror is the ability to portray or find beauty in the most gruelling or desperate text. To find terror divine and wish to drink it in as opposed to wanting to turn the page to find a hero or something that will numb you from what you have just read.
An ample answer that has given me much to think about. Just as there are many kinds of horror novels, a diverse range of fiction comes under Gothic umbrella. Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley and the Brontes were the forerunners. Now, Gothic includes everything from Elizabeth Kosova’s The Historian which is comparatively light in tone, to Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory and The Crow Road, both dark and disturbing. Then there are works like your own Biddy Trott, which are darker still. What motivated you to write a work as pithy and dark as Biddy Trott and does it exemplify the sort of Gothic fiction you write?
I am never sure why any one book that I write comes out so dark; I usually get inspired by one word – whether somebody speaks it or I read it in a different way to how I usually would. When I read I want to eat up the page – devour it like forbidden fruits and maybe that’s why I write such full text. The only analogy I can give you is that when I write it’s lustful to me and I never feel so alive – many times there are so many words that I can’t type quickly enough and this infuriates me. I’m always at that eureka point and so eternally frustrated too.
And yes, all my works are of this tone and I believe I can say, always shall be.

You’ve subverted some Gothic stereotypes in Biddy Trott. Particularly the damsel in distress. Do you think modern Gothic is more about subversion than it is mood building? 

I love this observation and yes, modern Gothic Horror is edgy and has had to be, and sometimes offending people’s principles or upending their pre conceptions is kind of wonderful – a bit of a feast. However Gothic has always stretched people’s tolerance in my opinion, and this is maybe why I enjoy it so much. In a homogenised world where everything blends so as we are all acceptable to each other, Gothic Horror stands alone offering no excuses, only a demand that you read, enjoy and are touched, even if you are ashamed to say it.

I think Gothic is a porous genre in the sense that many works have one foot in and the other out, and could be classified as thrillers or romance or horror, or plain literary fiction. How does as writer ensure they have both feet in the genre?
Great question though I’m not sure I’m equipped to answer as I am rooted thoroughly in Gothic Horror with no wish or need to venture out. So maybe that is the answer? Maybe feeling 100% at home somewhere stops you straying and makes your writing pure.
I’m embarking on my first Gothic novel. I think I have always had a sense of Gothic in me, and long ago I identified my muse –she who must be obeyed — as a barefooted, wild-haired young woman in a red ball gown. She’s rooted in the nineteenth century. I call her Scarlet and she’s untameable. What is your relationship with your creativity? How does it affect your life?
Isobel, I’m already fascinated! I have a very dark muse, and if Scarlet speaks to you then maybe this is where you have always belonged? You obviously have a passion for the genre and write such beautiful text. My relationship with my creativity is that I am completely dominated by it – don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy that part and it’s what makes me me, but I am in no way master of my imagination. In fact I do believe no one is, for then surely we wouldn’t enjoy it or be transported.
What advice and tips do you have for Gothic novices like me? Should I adhere to the strictures of plot and motif? Should I experiment? Or be subversive?
I would be yourself and loyal to only you. Whatever you create is what was meant to be and if you are impassioned as you so obviously are then what an absolute treat!
Basically in a word – FEAST!
Where are you heading next in your writing? 
I’m writing a series of novellas to accompany Biddy Trott. Although these aren’t follow on works.  And I’m writing a Gothic Horror novel at the same time.
Sounds like you have your work cut out for the foreseeable. I look forward with relish to reading what comes next. Donna Maria McCarthy, thank you very much for participating in this conversation! 

You can find Biddy Trott here.

Find Donna on:


Twitter @roast914_k

And read more about Donna on HellBound Books  and on Amazon.