Thursday, July 2, 2015

Interview with C.R. Sztaba

Greetings dear viewer, it's been a while since my good lady Marge has let me out.
Not since the night I went to the dogs? What a bloody night out that was. I'd won a few races at my local greyhound track and I'm almost too embarrassed to say I rather took the celebrating a little too over board.
Let's call a spade a bloody spade, I was as pissed as a fart, three sheets to the wind.

Then low and behold I got taken short. Busting for a gypsies kiss I was.
I was concentrating on the very full contents of my bladder that I wasn't sure which way I was wondering.
I came upon a load of stalls in a row that I took as six Porto loos.
On trying to enter one I banged my head it was so short and found they were very small and cramped inside.

I'd just managed to get my pants down to my ankles when I heard all this excited barking and yelling from all around the porta potties.

Suddenly the door opened and a bloody greyhound in a little black & white vest with a red number 6 on it, was shoved into my lap.
Then heard some strange whirring sound looked out the grills at the back of my porta potty to see a fluffy bunny rabbit shoot passed.
Then surprise, surprise, the grill I was looking out of flipped up along with the others, my canine companion went apathetic with excitement surged passed me sending me cartwheeling head over heels out of my make do water closest and then coming to rest with my trousers and pants around my ankles in the middle of the greyhound track.

You could say I'd quite literally gone to the dogs.

I wasn't going to the dogs tonight. Quite the opposite was meeting a very scary new horror writer C.R. Sztaba.
A writer of great mystery, we had agreed to meet at a certain famous wax works.
I was surprised but delighted to find C.R. Sztaba wasn't frightening or scary in person in fact rather delightful and beautiful.
Because the first big surprise about C.R. Sztaba is that he, I mean she is a woman. I could tell by the lumps in the front of her shirt.
I was very pleased with this as I champion female horror writers to the hilt.
So much so that one of the first things I got C.R. or Caroline to her friends to do was to sign her up to own a short story for my up and coming charity project this year, helping victims of domestic abuse and of course female horror writers.
Caroline spotted me across the crowded room and she joked at first she thought I was one of the exhibits. I said "ah, I often get confused with Brad Pitt." "No, I thought you were a waxwork of Dr Crippen!"

Anyway after we found a quite spot in the chambers of horrors we got to taking books and all things horror.

KG: Let me first say you look very beautiful in a dress.  You're a woman, a lady in fact. How did that happen?

CR Sztaba: Well, my mum and dad kept calling me Andrew all through the pregnancy (do you think they really wanted a boy?) so I’ve always tried to be really feminine and that includes being a real wuss and useless at anything remotely taxing and I hate getting dirty!

KG: No, of course you are woman, a very beautiful one if you don't mind me saying?

CR Sztaba: Not at all (hee hee)

KG: How did you get into horror?

CR Sztaba: Growing up in an old spooky house from the age of 3 to 14. It was definitely haunted! Plus my sister Isabel was also into horror comics big time. She did a séance once and ever since then we had some real weird goings on in the house. My whole family loved all things horror. Hammer House of Horror films growing up was a must and the old 1950s movies like Day of The Triffids and the like. Yep I’m a golden oldie!

KG: An Oldie but a goody may I say. Somehow men seem to have cornered the market in scary, creepy Do you feel women are taken seriously as horror writers?

CR Sztaba: I think people assume because we are women we won’t go the whole way when it comes to being horrific. Mark my words, ask my husband what horrific is, when I get up first thing in the morning!! Seriously, I scare myself sometimes and I have the most tremendous dreams to get inspiration. One night I ended a dream and film credits came up! No kidding!

KG: The thought of you going the whole way scares even me! I mean your work scares even me, and I take some scaring, believe you me. Your short stories Tales From The Book Of Dark Magic, is one scary read. Where did you get your inspiration from?

CR Sztaba: Believe it or not one of the stories is loosely based on a true story (just the beginning) The Green Box. There was a missing persons case back in the late 70s and they never found the woman. Can’t mention names out of respect for her family but it’s all manner of situations and things that give me inspiration for stories.

KG:  A lot of your stories are very gruesome. Do you like blood, guts and Gore?

CR Sztaba: I use to really like the slasher movies back in the 80s. Now I think they can get a bit boring and samey. Half naked women running towards danger instead of away from it! Honestly I like to write about what us normal folk would do if a maniac was after us. I also tend to go more for the jump out of your skin types of films now. However my books still have loads of scenes to make your skin crawl plus my new book that I’m working on is a "keep the sick bucket by you novel!" Lol.

KG:  Sounds like my married sex life, "keeping the sick bucket by the bed I mean." You love your horror, when did you start reading or watching horror, and what drew you in?

CR Sztaba: I started watching horror as young as five  (no, my parents were not a bad lot ) I just use to pretend I was napping on the settee but I really had one eye open) Mind you, I got my come-uppance one day. Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill was on, and I opened my eyes just when the old lady appeared from nowhere. Boy did I scream the place down!!!!!

KG: I love a screamer! What do you think of modern horror?

CR Sztaba: I love books by Graham Masterton, Shaun Hutson and James Herbert. Dean Koonz and Clive Barker for their film adaptations. Hellraiser. Quality!!

KG: Do you have a modern favourite and what is your all time classic horror favourite.

CR Sztaba: There are some fantastic films out there. My favourites are Insidious/Sinister/Occulus/The Ring movies (The originals though – god they are scary!) also Human Centipede films are different but definitely not for the easily offended! As for my favourite classic horror it has to be Don’t be Afraid of The Dark (the original) I have never been so scared Oh and Evil Dead the original. I watched Evil Dead round my sisters and brother-in-law's one night and we were hiding behind our cushions the whole time, then when the film finished we turned the lights back on and the fuses blew! Needless to say screaming and panic ensued.

KG: Life's obviously a bloody scream in your house dear. To me all writing, and horror especially, is about believable well written characters. Not just big busty blondes running away from men in various scary masks, though come to mention it I wouldn't say no to that...  (at this point Kensington went off into a bit of a dream state and started drooling - was brought back to life by C.R. Sztaba kicking him under the table)
What? Blood! Oh, yes. Who is your favourite horror film character and why?

CR Sztaba: I love Freddy Kruger. Classic serial killer. Evil looking. Terrifying. What more could a horror fan ask for.

KG: And a little bird told me you were working on a very scary new character to stand alongside the likes of Freddy Kruger?

CR Sztaba: Yep. I’m hoping he will be the next one to line up against Jason, Michael and Freddy. That’s all I’m saying! Watch this space!!

KG: What surprises me you don't come from a normal horror back ground. Now, I don't know if you want to keep this secret but I've done my research and you write children's books of all things. What got you into that and why such different polar opposite of writing genres?

CR Sztaba: Believe it or not I have always written horror. I really wanted to be an actress when I was younger and I was always doing plays about ghosts and witches (ask my old school mates) I do a wicked cackling old hag! When I had my son Grant I decided to draw a little picture book based on him called Bertie. I literally drew the set of books in two weeks. six weeks later I had a publishing deal and sold 180,000 in the UK. I then did a series of six Rufus books spin offs and ever since I’ve done various projects involving illustrating from wildlife pictures to commissioned work for the BBC.

KG: You do the most fantastic illustrations for your children's books, they remind me of Raymond Briggs book illustrations. Who inspires you as an artist?

CR Sztaba: My big sister Isabel. She’s so talented too. I was always copying her drawings when I was little. She is definitely my biggest inspiration for all the artistic things I’ve achieved. She would have made a good sculpture I think as she has made some wonder pottery items in the past and also paintings. Also I’ve been told my artwork is very 1950s (harking back to the days where detail was important rather than putting a blob on a page and calling it a person. Do they think children are daft?)

KG: Not bloody mine anyway. Have you ever thought of doing horror illustrations for your books?

CR Sztaba: Absolutely. Although the days of hand drawn illustrations on books has taken a fall. People tend to use photography more now. However, even with photos you can be really creative and scary with what you produce.

KG:  You have a dark but stunning beautifully twisted mind. Do some of your ideas scare you yourself or your family & friends say?

CR Sztaba: My husband sleeps with one eye open all night LOL!!! It’s funny because most people look at me and think I’m posh. Then I go and open my gob and that goes out of the window. Same with me being a lady, they look at me and think, so demure, then they read the books and think Crikey, where’s this coming from??

KG: Now, your debut novel Nephilim Rising, it's a scary read and very good might I add. How did you approach this novel?

CR Sztaba: I literally sat down one day and began writing. It just literally flowed. (I don’t sound pretentious do I? lol!)

KG: No, not really. Things flow out of me all the time.  In a blood soaked nutshell how would you describe your novel Nephilim Rising?

CR Sztaba: Well if you are a spiritual person like me (I’m one of these people that thinks outside the box) Nephilims are half human half angel and apparently they were wiped out in the flood that god sent when Noah built his ark. There are records that show that the bones of Nephilims have been found around the world. Huge beings of giant proportions.  I believe in the supernatural and that there may even be a Nepilim bloodline still in existence. My book is about a woman who is related to a Nephilim and how there is a war brewing between angels and demons. It’s totally fantastical but that’s what fiction is about. Escaping to places in your mind with the help of a book.

KG: I escape more than Houdini did, usually from my good lady Marge, if she'll let me that is. Handcuffs in the bedroom aren't just meant for fun.  Have you always been writing all your life? When did you start?

CR Sztaba: Believe it or not I started writing back when I was 18 years old. The best thing that happened to me was when Shaun Hutson the writer wrote back to me personally after I sent him one of my short stories and said it was brilliant. I nearly fainted with excitement! LOL! Also the best thing was, he had typed it on a typewriter with loads of spelling mistakes. Wicked! He gave me some brilliant advice and I’ve been a fan ever since.

KG: Lol most writers can't spell to save their bloody lives. And how do you see your writing growing and evolving?

CR Sztaba: I am definitely getting better and better as I go along. I think life experience helps in what you write. The stuff I wrote when I was younger is so different to what I write now.

KG: Do you want to just write novels from now on?  Will you continue you to do shorts? I think your shorts are some of the best I've read in ages and I don't heap praise easily.

CR Sztaba: No, I will never give up my short stories. Roald Dahl Tales of The Unexpected will always remind me that people always love a short story with a good twist.

KG: Your writing is very visual and at times to me appeals to a younger horror fan. Do you see yourself working on horror film scripts?

CR Sztaba: Absolutely. I would love to see my stories in made into films. To see your creation up on the big screen must be totally amazing. Even having them on TV would be brilliant.

KG: Your partner Steve is a great driving force and not only that an inspiration to your work. I believe that's even his ugly mug on the front cover of the The Book of Dark Magic?

CR Sztaba: Poor Steve…Yes, he gets roped into everything! He would make a brilliant serial killer in a movie of one of my books, seriously! He has these vivid bright hazel eyes sot when he gets mad all he has to do is just stare! Enough said!!

KG: Remind me not to make him mad then dear. Whose is the other very scary looking face on the cover. I find myself strangely drawn to it, somehow beautiful and familiar, looks like a zombie possessed clown?

CR Sztaba: Yep that’s my ugly mug photo-shopped. Or should I say me before make up LOL!!!

KG: Never? Most people beautify you ugly down, what a bloody woman.  What would you say to encourage any horror writer but especially female horror writers to maybe follow in your footsteps?

CR Sztaba: Don’t be afraid to write anything. Don’t think “Oh that’s a bit rude or a bit sick” It’s horror it has to be awful and sick. Obviously I draw the line at certain topics like child abuse/pornography and torture and bestiality. That’s all goes on the No, No list for me.

KG: My wife used to have a long, no, no list now she just says no, to everything she says it saves time. What books have you got in the pipeline? How are you going to scare us next?

CR Sztaba: I’m writing a good crime/horror story. Hubby (yep good old Steve) has given me loads of research material and info as the book is based in Southampton and Southsea (Yes not the most evil of places) yet, that is where evil lurks at its best. Friends and family will be quaking in their boots as I have incorporated a lot of them into the book under mixed up names and such LOL!!!

KG: Oh the seaside can be a scary place. A stick of rock would make a great murder weapon. After the deed you could just suck the murder weapon away. Depends where you stick it of course?! (Again at this point Kensington Gore seemed to drift off but this time rather disturbingly drooled blood from his mouth - which he wiped away with a dirty blood stained handkerchief)

Now, we are surrounded by wax works of famous people, movie stars, politicians, sports men, some fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter. Would you prefer they do a waxwork of yourself or one of many of your gruesome horror characters in your books?

CR Sztaba: One of me?? What are you trying to say? LOL!! Definitely have to be a waxwork of one of my characters I’m nowhere near that interesting to have a figure done of me.

KG: The thing about having a waxwork of one's self done, it would get on ones wick don't you think?

CR Sztaba: What? a candle wick?

KG: In fact how do they do a waxwork? Think they grab one by the wick and then dunk you into a vat of hot wax?

CR Sztaba: No they do a Carry on Screaming. They dip a whole dead body into a vat of wax and pretend they are dummies Whooooooooooooo!

KG: "Frying tonight!" Maybe that could give you an idea for another one of your scary stories, they'd sure wax lyrical about that.

CR Sztaba: I think Wax works are well creepy. It would definitely make for a good story. Maybe I could do a story about a certain old man who pretends he’s made of wax and when unsuspecting visitors walk through the chamber of horrors he steps out, kidnaps them and tortures them to hours of jokes and anecdotes? What do you think?

KG: Sounds like a roll made for me my dear. Question is, can you afford me? Let's go for a drink and discus it over a yard of whiskey, I hear the Chelsea Pensioner on Fulham road is a great little boozer?

CR Sztaba: That sounds like a plan.

KG: Could buy you some jellied eels or something.

CR Sztaba: Or jellied eye balls?? Muah ha ha!

To read C.R. Sztaba's scarry work follow these links:

Tales From The Book Of Dark Magic

Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

Nephilim Rising

Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

Interview by: Kensington Gore

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