Interview conducted by John Wisniewski.
John Wisniewski: When did you begin writing, C. Michael? Were your first writings in the horror genre?
C. Michael Forsyth: My first writing job out of college was in corporate communications, creating scripts for a production company that made sales, training and motivational videos. My next gig was on the rewrite desk at the National Enquirer. The next stint was the most fun, writing for the Weekly World News for 9 years. A lot of my news satire had a horror slant, for example stories such as “Moon Rays Turned Apollo Astronauts into Werewolves” or “Iodine and Cocoa Butter Cure Werewolf Curse.”
JW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
CMF: My favorite horror writer is Stephen King. I admire how he invests a lot of time building the characters and making you care about them. His approach greatly influenced me as I wrote Hour of The Beast, my first novel. I’m dazzled by the storytelling gifts of Tom Wolfe. His college-set novel I am Charlotte Simmons, written when he was in his 70s, was powerful and believable, and convinced me I could write a story set on a modern campus even though I graduated a long time ago.
JW: You spent years researching information about ancient Africa to write The Blood of Titans. Could you tell us about the research and what you discovered?
CMF: In order to create a believable world, I immersed myself in a variety of books on ancient Africa. Through such books such as The Destruction of Black Civilization, and A Glorious Age in Africa, I learned that for many centuries, Africa was on a par with Europe, with extensive trade routes, sophisticated forms of government and large cities. A far cry from the mud huts and jibbering savages of the Tarzan movies I grew up on.
A book on African systems of kinship and marriage helped me to write a love story in a society where polygamy was the norm. Since the story involves a love triangle between the heroine Princess Halima, King Shomari, whom she marries and his first wife, this was absolutely critical. I learned that although polygamy was practiced in these societies, the first wife’s station was quite elevated. She wielded great authority in the husband’s compound.
To help me visualize pre-colonial Africa, I read firsthand descriptions by early European explorers like Richard Burton. Their awe upon seeing sights like Victoria Falls helped me get across Princess Halima’s sense of wonder when she sees the strange mountain country for the first time.
From a book on names I was able to select characters names that both had a fitting meaning in an African tongue and, from the sound, also suggested something about the character in English. Olugbodi, an unattractive king that Halima is initially bethrothed to, sounds like “ugly body.” His evil henchman Masomakali, who loves to inflict pain, has a name that hints of “mal,” meaning bad and “masochism.” A book on proverbs gave me insight into the way pre-colonial Africans saw the world. I sprinkled these sayings liberally throughout the book, and used others as the basis for songs.
JW: Could you tell us about writing your first horror novel Hour of the Beast? Are you inspired by horror films like Universal Horror’s “The Wolf Man”?
CMF: Every Saturday night when I was a kid, my sister and I watched the classic horror movies such as “The Wolf Man” and “The Mummy” on TV’s “Chiller Theater.” It was a ritual I anticipated with a mix of eagerness and fear. As a result, I had nightmares almost every night from age seven to 12. Those terrifying dreams, which often focused on werewolves, definitely provided the underpinning for Hour of the Beast. The opening scene unfolds very much like a nightmare one might experience after falling asleep to a horror movie.
Ultimately, my salvation from those unrelenting nightmares came when my father told me something he’d read in a book on dream interpretation: Every character in a dream is an aspect of oneself. The enormity of that realization — that the werewolf chasing me was simply a projection of my own traits — freed me from fears that had plagued me nightly throughout my childhood. That simple concept provides the spine of the novel.
JW: There was an interesting post on your site-about beasts that actually exist: werewolves. Could you tell us about this?
CMF: Hour of the Beast is about werewolves, and so on my blog, The Best and Worst of Horror, I’ve featured numerous stories about lycanthropy. The story you’re probably referring to came out of France and it was that paleoanthropologists discovered the remains of a 27,000-year-old skeleton of a previously unknown prehistoric hominid that may have given rise to the werewolf legend.
Dubbed Homo lycanthropus, the early man stood over seven feet tall, boasted a prognathous jaw with razor-sharp canine teeth, a massive brow ridge, and ears positioned high, giving it an oddly canine appearance. A striking photo of the skull of this “Wolf Man” ran with the story, which revealed that scientists believe that the caveman coexisted peacefully with Cro-Magnon (our direct ancestor) and, as with the Neanderthal, a small number of Europeans alive today are believed to have some Homo Lycanthropus DNA.
However, this must be taken with a grain of salt because I used to work for The Weekly World News, the outrageous satirical tabloid. Some of the werewolf stories on my blog are more obviously intended to be humorous. Such as:
* Prince William Spearheading Campaign to Ban Werewolf Hunting
* Wererabbits Breeding Out of Control
* Logical Explanation Found for Bigfoot Sightings: They’re Just Tall Werewolves!
* Department of Homeland Security Develops Facial Recognition Software that Can Identify Werewolves
* Female Werewolf Saves Two Boys Trapped in Mine!
JW: What are you currently working on-please tell us about your future projects.
CMF: I have a slew of projects coming down the pike. Coming out in November is The Identity Thief, a thriller about a crook who unwittingly steals the identity of the worst possible person, thrusting him into a world of danger and espionage. I’m putting the finishing touches on Adventure of the Spook House, a mystery featuring Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle (the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories), who were friends — and later enemies — in real life. And I’ll soon be launching a Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel Night Cage, about vampires in a women’s prison.