Wednesday, October 28, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen Zimmer regarding his new short story collection: HELLSCAPES Volume 2

Return to the nightmarish, shadowy realms of Hell in the latest installment of the Hellscapes series by Stephen Zimmer. Six brand new, macabre tales of the infernal await you … but be that you only visit these realms, you do not want to share the fates of the inhabitants you will encounter!


CREATIVE HELP BOARD: HELLSCAPES 2 is obviously the second book in this particular short story series. What was your initial idea behind the HELLSCAPES short story series?

ZIMMER: I wanted to write tales in the horror genre that were connected with a theme, and have something to say in them, while also having something that would give me unlimited range in the kinds of environments, characters, themes, and creatures that could be encountered within them. 

The idea of doing stories set in Hell gives you every option.  You can go bizarre or brutal  You can have something more rooted in stark realism or depict something wildly fantastical.  You can have a tone that is visceral in nature or more psychological in nature. 

There are no boundaries that are off-limits, as Hell is the ultimate horror, an unending, eternal nightmare for those condemned to dwell within it.   Writing a series of short tales that have a connecting theme to them, while allowing for great variance in the types of stories and settings, gives me a good challenge as a writer. 

Intellectually it allows me to explore conceptions of evil in all its forms, the subtle and not-so-subtle. The way in which I reveal what brought the character to their area of Hell can be a real exposition of a given type of evil.

For me, the kinds of stories in the Hellscapes collection offered that opportunity and that's why I embarked on the path of writing them.

CHB: Do you see yourself more a Horror writer or an Epic Fantasy writer delving in realms of Horror?

ZIMMER: I just see myself as a writer exploring another horizon.  I don't want to ever limit myself, and the truth is that elements of various genres are used often in other genres  I have horror elements in my Fires in Eden Series, Rising Dawn Saga, and Rayden Valkyrie Tales.  This is simply going full-throttle in the genre, without inhibition.  There are things intrinsic to each genre, but at the end of the day you still have to have plot and characters that appeal to, and engage, the reader.  

CHB: What do you think makes the HELLSCAPE series unique?

ZIMMER: Truly, there really is nothing new under the sun, but I do like to think that this series has its own twist on the kinds of themes that originated as far back as Dante's Inferno.  The various characters find themselves in different realms of hell that are suited toward the kinds of evils the characters committed in their physical lives. 

It is an exploration of evil in all of its guises, the things more direct and those things like so many like to gloss over, such as what transpires when a community is gutted because of the closing of a main factory or business as a result of a hostile takeover in the financial sector.  All too often, the kinds of suffering and evils spawned in the aftermath of something like that are never factored into the thinking of the powerful sitting in high rise offices far away. 

That can make for a seemingly dry concept of evil, but in tales like the Hellscapes I can draw upon all kinds of imagery to represent that kind of evil and show just how malignant it is.  I think in many ways the Hellscapes have value because they do explore all kinds of evil and not just the obvious ones.

The wide variance in the stories combined with a cohesive overall theme make this a collection that I feel has its place among the horror genre offerings out there.

CHB: Do you have a favorite short story in one or both of the series? Can you say a little bit about WHY without giving too much of the storyline away?

ZIMMER: It is hard to pick favorites in the two volumes.  In the first, I would probably lean toward “The Smallest Fish”, as it brings together zombie elements and Lovecraftian elements into an exploration of a more subtle, but all too common type of evil.  It has horrors on an epic scale but doesn't lose the personal connection to the principle character.  The Stranger, who appears in this one to the main character, is also one of my more favorite guides among the denizens of the infernal realms. 

With the second book, I lean toward “Spots Do Not Change” as it is a story that depicts a kind of evil that I find to be among the worst, a kind of evil that destroys a path that could have brought tremendous good to many, and all for mere physical indulgence.   The liar, cheater, and deceiver does not just harm the person they have ensnared, but they also cause great damage to those around that person and others who could have been a shining light in that person's life.  In this story, I have hopefully shown that kind of evil for what it is and how it is an evil that gives rise to further evils.  Personally, this was  a very gratifying story to write. 

CHB: What do you like most about being a writer?

ZIMMER: I love the creative exploration and personal growth that it brings.  Writing gives you the ability to bring worlds to life, but you also must live a real life in order to breath life into characters, emotions, and situations.  For me, the writing life calls you to get out in the world and try things out and experience things, travel to new places, meet different kinds of people, from all walks of life.   Life experience truly helps you grow as a writer, and this call to live and bring worlds of the imagination to life co-exist in a wonderful way for me.

CHB: What do you like the least about being a writer?

ZIMMER: The maelstrom of it all.  In today's writing climate, there is simply so much out there and coming out that you have to do all you can to raise awareness and make sure you don't fall off the radar.  This demands a lot of time to do properly. 

That can be a bit onerous sometimes and the things done to promote and raise awareness can lead to some issues in the area of perception of value.  Of course illegal downloading is hurtful, but there is also the fact that with many titles being legally given away for free or 99 cents, I think a skewed perception of value has resulted.  People that think nothing of spending seven bucks on a drink at a bar or five dollars on a Taco Bell combo meal hesitate on an eBook that is over 99 cents, when the value in that eBook is longer-lasting and much better than those aforementioned things (not even counting all the work, research, writing, rewriting, editing, etc that goes into a book project).  That can be a little frustrating and wasn't so much of an issue with tangible formats.  I know the musicians and filmmakers can relate strongly to writers in this area.  The digital world, while it offers such convenience, has also opened up a lot of difficult issues for artists who still need to pay bills and are trying to have a career.

CHB: Do you have plans to continue this series into possibly a HELLSCAPES 3?

ZIMMER: Of course! Without a doubt. I have loads of ideas for more stories and there are so many other kinds of evil that can be depicted.  These stories give me a different area to explore artistically from the other series and projects that I have, and that gives me a nice change of pace from time to time.  I certainly hope to do a Hellscapes 3, 4, and so on!

CHB: And final words on the HELLSCAPES series?

ZIMMER: The Hellscapes tales have delivered to me as a writer everything that I saw them as offering, and I hope readers, especially those of the horror genre, give them a try.  They will find a diverse range of characters and settings, yet also see a connection between them all.  With what these stories are and what they have to say, I also believe they demonstrate some of the strengths of horror in what the genre offers to literature.


Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.

Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7


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HELLSCAPES Vol. 2 Virtual Tour

Tour Schedule and Activities
10/26 Anasazi Dreams Review
Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
Shells Interviews Guest Post
Sinister Scribblings Guest Post
Kentucky Geek Girl Author Interview
Pulp Reports Review
10/28 Creatives Help Board. How may I direct your call? Guest Post
Bee's Knees Reviews Review
Sheila's Blog Guest Post
L. Andrew Cooper's Horrific Scribblings Review
10/31 SwillBlog Review/Interview
I Smell Sheep Review
11/1 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top-Tens List
Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post

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