Posts Tagged ‘Boogeyman’

Richard Chizmar, author of Chasing the Boogeyman.

Back in late 2019, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Chizmar, owner and publisher of Cemetery Dance Publications, as well as the author of several stories (including one or two in collaboration with Stephen King). Well, a lot’s happened since then, and Mr. Chizmar has a new novel called Chasing the Boogeyman that’s just released, Chasing the Boogeyman. In this novel, Chizmar himself plays the protagonist as he returns home post-college to write, prepare for a wedding…and deal with a serial killer that is hunting in his hometown.

I got to sit down with Mr. Chizmar to discuss the new book, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what he’s been reading lately. Here’s what we talked about.

Rami Ungar: Mr. Chizmar, welcome back to the show. Tell us about Chasing the Boogeyman and how the novel came to be.

Richard Chizmar: I always wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I pretty much assumed it would be a big fat coming-of-age horror novel – in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT – but that’s not how it worked out. Instead, I couldn’t shake the idea of a small town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I got engaged and my fiancée and I decided it would be smart to save rent money until the wedding. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of eight or nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write short stories. It was a strangely wonderful time. There I was standing on the doorstep of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.

RU: You made yourself a character in the novel. Can you tell me how you decided to do that and what writing your character was like? Was it difficult or did you find it easy?

RC: It happened very naturally. When I first started jotting down notes for CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN I quickly realized how much of my true self would be surfacing in the story. I was writing about my past, my family and friends, my hometown, and most importantly, my early life hopes and fears. It just made sense to me, in that moment, that I wouldn’t even pretend to be someone else. Once I got past those normal early feelings of self-doubt, the rest of it was a breeze. It almost felt self-indulgent at times because I was having so much fun.

RU: Speaking of your character, would you say your character is close to what you’re like in real life?

RC: My character in the book is as close to the real me at age twenty-two as I could make him. In real life instances that occurred within the novel, I drew on memory and described them exactly as I remembered. When it came to the make-believe, I asked myself: what do you think you would have done? How do you think you would have acted or reacted? And then I put pen to paper as honestly as I could. That was important to me, and a promise I made to myself when I first started writing the book.  

RU: Going back to the boogeyman in the title, what do you think it is about the boogeyman character that makes it and its equivalents in other cultures enduring figures in our collective imaginations?

RC: Two things: longevity and proximity. The Boogeyman – in its various forms – has been around forever. That dark shape lurking in the woods or the alleyways or the shadowed neighborhood streets has always existed and been feared. And every town has one. Just like every small town has a haunted house located somewhere within its borders, every town also has its Boogeyman.

RU: I’ve been hearing this novel hyped for about a year now. What’s it like having one of the most anticipated novels of 2021?

RC: On the one hand, it’s very exciting when readers are talking about your book so far in advance and there’s a lot of positive press and buzz. On the other hand, it’s also nerve-wracking and can feel like a lot of pressure. I just try to roll with the punches as they come and enjoy the moment. Even eleven months ago when the book was first announced, I knew that publication day would be here before I knew it. From Day One, I’ve been determined to enjoy the process as much as possible. I’ve been in the business now for close to 35 years and CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN is technically my debut novel (GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER was billed as a novel, but it’s really a short novella), so it’s natural that it would come with a decent amount of fanfare. I just hope it does well for Simon & Schuster who really believed in the book.

RU: Pivoting to a new subject, you’re still running Cemetery Dance Publications and Cemetery Dance magazine. Have you noticed a change in the fiction you’ve been getting since the COVID-19 pandemic began? If so, what?

RC: That’s an interesting question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting answer. We haven’t been open to public submissions for a while, so I haven’t seen any sort of trends developing. My bet is that we’ll see those trends appearing in published fiction over the next couple years.

RU: I have no doubt about that! Speaking of which, what have you been doing while stuck inside during the pandemic? Has it had an effect on your writing and productivity?

Chasing the Boogeyman. Available now.

RC: I’m pretty much a recluse in even the best of times, so the pandemic didn’t really affect my day-to-day comings and goings as much as it did most folks. In between insanely long bouts of cable news viewing, I managed to write a couple novels and a handful of short stories and essays. I was pretty pleased with that output.

RU: I guess we had a similar pandemic writing experience, then. Now, can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

RC: I’m about to start working on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had an absolute blast. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas. 

RU: Good luck! And finally, what are some books you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?

RC: I’ve been on a good run of reading lately. One gem after the other. GOBLIN by Josh Malerman. THE BURNING GIRLS by C.J. Tudor. MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones. ROAD OF BONES by Chris Golden. THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP by Grady Hendrix. I’ve been spoiled!

RU: Oh, one of those is on my TBR list. Glad to know you recommend it.

If you would like to check out Chasing the Boogeyman, it’s currently out and available wherever fine books are sold (or lent if, like me, you went to your local library). And if you would like to keep up with Richard Chizmar, you can find him on his website, on his Twitter, and on Cemetery Dance’s website and Twitter.

If you would like to check out other author interviews, including my first with Mr. Chizmar, you can find it on my Interviews page.

And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and want to have an interview with me, email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m available, we can make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back with a couple of new reviews this week, as well as some other stuff so this blog doesn’t become a review and interview blog (nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what this blog is). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I’m taking a break from posting Video Rage updates and #FirstLineFridays (though I hope you’re reading those with the same enthusiasm and interest you read the blog posts of others) to talk about something that’s become a bit of an interest for me. Now, I don’t play video games. I don’t have a console, nor do I have the time, patience, or drive to play them. But I love watching others play them. Specifically, I watch gamers play games and post the footage of the games and of themselves playing the games on YouTube. They’re called Let’s Play videos, and they are one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube.

And I’ve become quite the fan of them. Especially videos of horror games. And I’ve found that horror games, like movies and books, can run the gamut from excellent to “we didn’t put that much effort into this game and we’re merely taking advantage of people who are hoping to find a gem among a pile of crap.” Yet from a writer’s standpoint, I’ve found that even bad or average games can lead to great ideas for stories.

Beyond the basic elements of a scary story–the monster or evil the character/player has to face–the developers often, especially in the good games, put a lot of emphasis on visuals and audio. They’ll work with lighting, placement of objects, and, best of all, the antagonists of the game to create the creepiest effect. They also use sound effects and music as effectively as any composer and sound mixer to heighten tension and signal to players what sort of scene in the story they’ve come across. Add in great story that can be told over longer periods than movies and even some books, well-timed jumpscares, and objectives in the game that usually involve getting near a monster, and you’ve got a recipe not only for a scary game, but a great vehicle that can put the creative player or viewer in the right state of mind to come up with scary story ideas of their own.

And you know what else? Some of those ideas can be pretty spectacular. I know, I know, what constitutes a good idea is often about perception, and the execution of those ideas in turning them into a story is also up to the author’s individual skill, but I just want to say, they are often very good ideas. Not too long ago, I had an idea for a novel that was inspired by a game. And it sounds like a very strange and creepy idea for a story. I think I state all this because despite the fact that the gaming industry has grown over the years, with thousands of professional and indie developers, and millions of players around the world, a lot of people still see gaming as a thing for kids and are surprised that gaming, and people who watch gamers play, is such a serious thing among adults and kids. Heck, even late night host Jimmy Kimmel made incredulous jokes about the phenomenon at one point, though he later came to realize that he may have been a little hasty in judgment and talked to Let’s Play gamers to get their side of it.

Truth be told, video games are a lot like comic books: what was originally seen as something meant for kids yet possibly bad for their minds has become something that adults can appreciate and serve as the basis for several successful movies, TV shows, and so much more. They’re continuously evolving, changing as new fans and creators join the community, inviting discussions and debates, new takes on old characters and stories and encouraging people to exercise their creativity and skills in the name of fun. It’s no surprise that games can also be enjoyed by both playing and watching, and allow creators to come up with their own fun and unique stories.

Though I do agree that certain games are best left out of the hands of children until they reach a certain maturity. Seriously, if you think it’s okay to let your five-year-old play a Grand Theft Auto game, I worry about your parenting skills.

But enough of that tangent. I’ve been talking about how horror games can serve as great creative juice for horror writers (and other creative types). So I’m going to list some of the best horror games I feel can give you inspiration, whether you decide to play them or just watch others do it. Each game has plenty going for it, so you can really learn a lot from it and get plenty of ideas. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Slender: The Eight Pages

I would be remiss if I did not list this one. This game set the standard for what constitutes a successful indie horror game. Based on the Slenderman character I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this blog, the game tasks the player trying to find eight notes scattered around a forest that pertain to the Slender Man, all while trying to avoid the creepster himself. While Slendy was popular on the Internet prior to the game, the game really caused him to explode as a phenomenon, and really hit home to people that indie horror games can be creative and cool, too.

Since Slender came out, the creators have put out a number of sequels, some of which are really great, and he’s appeared in other games as well. However, this is the game that started it all, and you should definitely give it a try, if only to set the bar for what a horror indie game can be.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

If Slender set the standard, then Five Nights at Freddy’s, which I’ve talked about on this blog as well, took the bar and threw it into the upper atmosphere. Created by programmer Scott Cawthon, Five Nights at Freddy’s (often abbreviated as FNAF) follows a security guard tasked with the night shift at a pizzeria with a checkered history while killer animatronics roam the halls trying to get into your office. The game combines simple gameplay, terrifying visuals, and strong jumpscares to create a powerful gaming experience, spawning three sequels, one kid-friendly spin-off, a novel that I’ve read and reviewed, and a movie I’ve made no secret that I’m excited about, as well as thousands of tribute and knock-off games inspired by or trying to capitalize on the popularity of the game.

Another reason this game is so popular is because the game has a huge mythology, but no one’s been able to make sense of it or put the events in order. You go online, you’ll find tons of people putting forth their theories about this haunted pizzeria and why the animatronics are trying to kill you. You should check out the games for that mystery alone, but for all the reasons I’ve listed, you cannot miss this game.

PT

You can’t actually get this game anymore as far as I’m aware, but you can find plenty of people who played it. PT stands for “playable teaser,” and was originally just that: a teaser for an upcoming game you could play. Specifically, PT was teasing a new Silent Hill game which filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was to be part of, until that project fell through. Still, PT was a great game on its own, despite the final two stages of the game considered to be confusing and requiring special knowledge to make it through them. Its eerie story, the strange unreality of the house setting, and other factors led to PT becoming a popular free mini-game.

Speaking of which, a short film based on PT was released online recently by YouTube channel Oddest of the Odd, and it really captures the game’s spirit and eeriness. Check it out here, and have a great time.

Until Dawn

Imagine a game version of Cabin in the Woods that’s trying to be serious horror instead of satirical horror comedy, and you’ll start to approach what Until Dawn is. A year after two sisters disappear at a mountain cabin, their brother and friends head back to the cabin to remember the girls and have fun, only to have or or several somethings stalk them. At times creepy or terrifying, at times silly or fun, Until Dawn features a cast of well-known actors including Brett Dalton, Hayden Panettiere, and the awesomely named Rami Malek.

I can’t reveal much more about this game without giving away a ton of surprises, which are more fun to discover by experiencing the game itself. I will tell you though that the game relies a lot on the “choice” mechanic, which means that you get special choices throughout playing the game, and those choices influence how the game turns out. Info revealed, who lives and who dies, all rely on the player’s choices, and this is reflected in the game’s emphasis on the Butterfly effect. Play it or watch it, you’re likely to get a very interesting film influenced by 80’s slasher films, mystery/thrillers, and some Native American mythology.

However, it’s only available on the PS4, so you’ll have to buy that if you want to get Until Dawn. Sucks, right?

Emily Wants to Play

Holy crap, this is a tough but fun game. A pizza delivery guy is lured into a house and finds that the ghost of an evil little girl and her sentient dolls have trapped him in the house, determined to have him play a game that could cost him his life. Creepy in both tone and characters, this is a game that is as scary as it is challenging. However, if you have the fortitude to play, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. People with doll phobias should not play this game though. You’ll be unable to sleep afterwards though.

Wick

For some reason, this game isn’t as well known as others, which is sad because it is SO GOOD! Armed with matches and candles only, you have to spend the night in a wood that was once the home of a family whose parents died in a fire and whose children went missing. Along with finding new candles and collecting objects related to the children, you have to avoid the ghosts of the children that haunt the woods. From the dark woods to the freaky nature of the ghosts, Wick is a game that will remind you of campfire stories that kept you up at night as a child.

Boogeyman

Using a similar mechanic to FNAF (and possibly inspired by it), Boogeyman follows a young boy who moves into a house that has a history of children disappearing from it. Learning from the tapes of a previous resident about the creatures that live in the house’s walls, you have to fight through several nights with mainly a flashlight and keep the Boogeyman from coming into your room and tearing you apart. From the distraction-filled room to the design of the Boogeyman himself, this is definitely a game to make you want to check under the bed and in the closet before you go to sleep.

Sophie’s Curse

You get a job to stay by an old man’s side and watch his house through the night while he sleeps. Sounds easy enough…until you find out that the house is haunted and that the only way to keep away the creepy little girl ghost is to make sure a series of devices set up throughout the house are powered and functioning. Such is Sophie’s Curse, which is a really dark game. Literally: there is more shadow than light in this game. And it works, because the sources of light are the same machines that protect your life. And when Sophie’s nearby or she’s trying to mess with the machines in the house, you really get scared. Play the game, and see if you survive. After playing this game, you cannot get inspired by it.

Outlast

I’ve saved the best for last. Outlast was developed by Red Barrels, a company composed of gaming professionals who came together from a variety of companies to make a badass horror game. And boy, did they succeed: from the moment it came out, this game quickly climbed up horror game lists and has continued to terrify us ever since, as has its DLC prequel/side-story Whistleblower and as I’m sure its sequel will do this fall.

The game follows Miles Upshur, an investigative journalist who gets tipped off to some weird things going on at the isolated Mount Massive Asylum in the California mountains. He arrives there armed with only a notebook and a video camera, only to find that the criminally insane inmates–who have been subjected to horrifying experiments–have gotten loose and are causing havoc in the asylum. You have to try and get out while also unraveling the mystery of Mount Massive, and of the experiments that go on there. It’s TERRIFYING! Visuals, audio, storytelling, tension and creep factor, everything is as close to perfect as possible. I’ve tried playing it, and I had to stop because everytime I did, I left shaking and worried about my heart.

So if you want a long and really scary movie experience, I suggest watching a Let’s Play of Outlast.

What do you think of horror games? Do you have a favorite?

Let’s discuss.