I love horror, write horror, and interview horror authors and other experts in the field! Ask me anything!

Alistair Cross
Mar 19, 2018

I am the bestselling author of several novels, including The Ravencrest Saga with Tamara Thorne. I also co-host Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, a horror-themed podcast where we've interviewed such guests as Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris,  author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of HELLRAISER 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore. 

Ask me anything about horror and the authors who write it!

Alistair Cross says:

This AMA will end Mar 22, 2018 8PM EDT


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Are there disadvantages in writing with another person?
Mar 22, 7:01AM EDT0

There definitely are - but not if you're writing with the right person. I've heard a lot of horror stories about collaborations and count myself very lucky that things have worked out extremely well for me. 

My collaborator, Tamara, and I share the same vision for our work, have the same goals, and have very similar sensibilities. We even have some past experiences in common which have given us both a firm respect for peace and productivity. We maintan a zero-tolerance policy on drama. 

I can say in all honesty, there are no disadvantages in my case ... but that said, I think you have to choose your writing partner very carefully - you have to make sure you're both on the same page as it were, and if possible, be sure to find someone whose ego is such that the two of you can work together without a lot of petty dramas.

Find someone who wants you to succeed, someone who will celebrate your strengths and help you improve your weaknesses.

Last edited @ Mar 23, 2:09PM EDT.
Mar 22, 2:19PM EDT0
What was the first thing that ever scared you?
Mar 22, 2:26AM EDT0

The half-finished basement in the house I grew up in. It was dark, creepy, and very mysterious to me. I still occasionally have dreams about it!

Mar 22, 2:03PM EDT0

Have you, while writing your solo stuff or writing with Tamara, have ever thought up a scene that really scared you, ?

Mar 21, 11:49PM EDT0

As a matter of fact, I have - just last week. I can't really say what it is because we're working on it now, but suffice it to say that in the current Thorne & Cross collaboration, there is a scene that really, really creeps me out. 

Mar 22, 2:01PM EDT0

So, what do you see as different between your and your corroborator’s style ( tone, atmosphere, character development, etc)?

Mar 21, 11:45PM EDT0

That's a good question, Johnnie.

Tamara and I have very similar sensibilities and when we go over a book we've written together, we often can't even tell who wrote what  - and we take that as a good sign, because when you're collaborating on a book with someone, it's important that your voices blend together well. 

That said, there are some differences in style, tone, etc. For one thing, Tamara loves writing atmosphere and has a way of creeping you out in the most beautiful settings. 

I tend to be a little - just a little - more heavy-handed with the sex scenes, and Tamara tends slightly more toward humor. But the joy of it is, when we write together, it draws out the best in both of us.   

Last edited @ Mar 22, 1:55PM EDT.
Mar 22, 1:46PM EDT0
How do you keep yourself from being starstruck when interviewing such famous people on your podcast?
Mar 21, 10:00PM EDT0

Sometimes I don't! But I do always try to maintain my composure and be professional. But there have definitely been times when I have been starstruck. The good news is that once you start talking, you begin to relax a little. I'm always nervous before showtime, regardless of who the guest is - but as soon as it starts moving, I'm fine. It's an odd phenomenon, that. 

Mar 22, 1:21PM EDT0
Does writing about the supernatural make you more or less inclined to believe in it?
Mar 21, 10:00PM EDT0

For me, writing about the supernatural probably makes me a little more inclined to believe in it - or at least more open-minded to it. I think that's because of all the research that goes into writing a book. You come across some pretty interesting stuff.

Mar 22, 1:18PM EDT0
What’s something terrifying that we’ve all come to accept as a fact of life?
Mar 21, 9:12PM EDT0

Death. We accept it, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. 

Mar 22, 1:14PM EDT0
Do you ever try to incorporate fears of the zeitgeist, or do you always focus on fears that are timeless?
Mar 21, 2:25PM EDT0

A mixture of both is good, but generally, I'm more interested in the timeless fears - like the unknown. That's the scariest thing of all, I think.

Mar 22, 1:09PM EDT0
Was the podcast your idea, or Tamara Thorne’s?
Mar 21, 2:08PM EDT0

Doing a podcast had never occurred to either of us, actually. I posted something random on Facebook one day (like I do every day) and the woman who turned out to be the producer of the network saw it and started a conversation with me. We got along, and later, she asked if we'd be interested in hosting a horror-themed show. 

At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to (I'm very introverted), but after talking about it with Tamara (she used to do radio), we decided it might be a lot fun.

It's turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made in my writing career and I hope it goes on for many more years. Because of that show, I've met people who I have no doubt will be remembered hundreds of years from now. It's overwhelming if I think too much about it. I love it.  

Last edited @ Mar 21, 11:19PM EDT.
Mar 21, 11:17PM EDT0
What do you think is the most beneficial emotion and the most destructive?
Mar 21, 12:27PM EDT0

Forgiveness is, in my opinion, the most beneficial, and resentment the most destructive. 

Mar 21, 10:37PM EDT0
How did it feel when you had your first best-seller? Were your pressured to make sure that all your next releases should sell well too?
Mar 21, 10:00AM EDT0

The strange truth is that, while I was happy that the book was doing so well, it actually didn't have much affect on me. Don't get me wrong, I was excited about it - but I didn't really invest anything emotional into it. 

My big dream was to write. I never thought about movie deals or book awards or bestseller lists. I still don't. All I've ever wanted from this gig was to sell enough books to allow me to keep writing more of them. I don't feel any pressure to ensure that the next book and the next book and the next book are all big sellers. I just want to write. 

Last edited @ Mar 21, 10:36PM EDT.
Mar 21, 10:34PM EDT0
Do you ever talk to people about your writing or show your work to other people?
Mar 21, 8:52AM EDT0

I have a small group of trusted peers with whom I will discuss my current projects. When a book is in the works, I think you have to be very selective about who sees it. The world is full of writers who are more interested in writing your book than their own and it's very easy to fall into the trap of taking bad advice.

I've learned to keep my works-in-progress out of plain view. Once the work is finished (and by finished, I mean that it's already gone through me, my very small circle of trusted readers, and the typical round of editors) I don't care who sees it. By then, it's done - I'm happy with it, the editors are happy with it, and it's too late for someone to tell me how I should have done it. 

Last edited @ Mar 21, 10:29PM EDT.
Mar 21, 10:27PM EDT0

What is the hardest part of writing horror?

Mar 21, 2:48AM EDT0

The hardest part of writing anything, horror or otherwise, is the discipline it takes to do it. Nobody has time to write - you have to make time to write. 

Also, it's always a challenge trying to find the freshest, most effective way to get the desired effect from your audience - which, in the case of horror, is fear. 

Mar 21, 10:19PM EDT0
Do you prefer going all out to gore or psychological chills while writing?
Mar 21, 12:08AM EDT0

Gore has its place, but personally, I think you can get a lot more mileage out of psychological chills. I tend to do a little of both in my own writing, but I prefer the quiet horror, the psychological chills.

Mar 21, 2:54PM EDT0

While doing research for your books what was your favorite subject to study and what subject left you feeling horrified?

Mar 20, 10:58PM EDT0

Hi, Ashlae!

The subject I most enjoyed researching, believe it or not, was the law, for the court scenes in Sleep, Savannah, Sleep. I also did a lot of fascinating research on vampires for The Crimson Corset, and that was a lot of fun. The mythology of vampires throughout the world in history is surprisingly fascinting.

The most horrifying research I've ever done is, hands-down, the dead body - rigor mortis, livor mortis, the rate of decay in various enviornments, what happens inside morgues, etc. Far more terrifying than vampires ...

Great question. Thanks for asking!

Mar 20, 11:20PM EDT0

As a horror lover, what do you feel needs to be done in films nowadays to really frighten an audience that has become (for the lack of a better word) numb to the typical horror movie?

Mar 20, 8:45PM EDT0

Great question, David. I'd have to go with mystery. I think we've seen enough bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed that it's lost a lot of its appeal at this point. The unknown, the unseen, the unattainable - these things scare me a lot more than gore. 

I'd also add that timing makes all the difference. If you've seen enough horror movies, you can usually predict exactly when the jumps and the scares are going to happen (the bathroom scene when the woman closes the medicine cabinet and the killer's - or monster's - face appears behind her in the mirror, for example.)  I think a lot of those jumps could be more effective if they were more unexpected. 

Finally, I'd say that a lot of horror movies could improve their impact, in my opinion, through a fuller use of their characters. Creating dynamic, interesting characters that the audience gets invested in will lend more power to any movie - and horror movies often have a tendency to put all the emphasis on shock and bloodshed instead. 

Last edited @ Mar 20, 10:17PM EDT.
Mar 20, 10:16PM EDT0
Show all 3 replies
How much research and planning do you undertake before writing or do you like to bring out everything with your imagination?
Mar 20, 7:10PM EDT0

I try to do as much research, world-building, and character development as possible before I begin writing but it often happens that I end up going an entirely different direction than I intended.

But I've learned that no research is wasted, ever. It always comes in handy at one time or another, so I never change tactics.

Last edited @ Mar 21, 10:16PM EDT.
Mar 21, 10:15PM EDT0
Do you personally believe in the existence of paranormal or are you a skeptic?
Mar 20, 6:24PM EDT0

I consider myself a knee-jerk skeptic with a reasonably open mind. What I mean is that I tend to glaze over when someone starts telling me their ghost stories - but often (depending on the story), I end up finding myself thinking that it just may the truth.

As for paranormal experiences of my own, I suppose I've had a few minor ones - I think we all have. But I don't automatically assume I'm experiencing something supernatural. I'm more inclined to think that there are scientific laws we simply haven't discovered yet - laws that someday, probably long after we're gone, will be easily explained by science.

It wasn't so long ago, after all, that we believed the earth was flat, or that sneezes were the result of a nearby ghost. And even now, we have some very silly notions that we still largely accept as truth (shaving makes your hair grown in thicker and darker, going outside with wet hair will give you a cold, that gum take your body seven years to digest, just to name a few.)

The point is, I believe that most of what we consider "supernatural" today will be common, perfectly explainable, knowledge tomorrow, and because of that, I'm reluctant to say I believe in the "paranormal." 

But I do like the idea of it very much. 

Mar 21, 10:05PM EDT0
Are humans better at creation or destruction and what, in your opinion, are the best and worst parts of human nature?
Mar 20, 2:15PM EDT0

In my experience, most human beings are in equal parts creative and destructive. I think it's just the nature of existence - things must be created and things must be destroyed - it's all part of the natural cycle of life. It's what keeps the wheels turning.

As for the best and worst parts of human nature, I'd say that empathy is the most constructive, and greed is the most destructive. 

Mar 21, 9:50PM EDT0
Who do you like to admire in the horror world?
Mar 20, 12:16PM EDT1

There are so many ...

Stephen King, of course - because he really is the King. William Peter Blatty, for his ability to jump point-of-view so flawlessly. Ira Levin, for his very precise clarity. Anne Rice, for her beautifully visceral imagery. John Saul, for daring to go places a lot authors won't. Tamara Thorne, for her ability to create the perfect eerie atmosphere. Gary Brandner, for the way he just plunges you, unapologetically and without warning, right into the action. Douglas Clegg, who can breathe life - and death - into a character like no one else. Tim Lebbon, for the wildest imagination this side of the darkness. 

The list could go on and on ...

Last edited @ Mar 20, 10:28PM EDT.
Mar 20, 10:23PM EDT0
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