Today I am interviewing Steve Rasnic Tem, author of the new horror novel, The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack.
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DJ: Hi Steve! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Steve: I’m a transplanted Southerner from Lee County Virginia, now a long-time resident of Colorado. My collaborative novella with my late wife Melanie Tem, The Man On The Ceiling, won the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild awards in 2001. I have also won the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, and British Fantasy Awards for my solo work. My last novel UBO (Solaris, January 2017) is a dark science fictional tale about violence and its origins, featuring such historical viewpoint characters as Jack the Ripper, Stalin, and Heinrich Himmler. My novel Blood Kin (Solaris, March 2014), won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award. A handbook on writing, Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Writing, also written with Melanie, appeared in 2017 from Apex Books. I’ve also published over 430 short stories. The best are collected in Figures Unseen: Selected Stories, which came out this year from Valancourt Books.
DJ: What is The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack about?
Steve: The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is a middle-grade novel set during Halloween, about a strange shop and its stranger proprietor. Now that she’s a teen, Laura wants to skip trick-or-treating to go to this year’s Halloween party with her classmates. But Mom insists she take her 7-year-old brother, Trevor, trick-or-treating first. The two travel to a new shop at an otherwise abandoned old mall–Doctor Blaack’s Mask Shop, overflowing with masks and costumes of all kinds, many of them quite peculiar. Trevor wanders off and when she and Blaack finally find him he is wearing a mouse mask that refuses to come off. Doctor Blaack reassures them it will fall off precisely at midnight tomorrow—Halloween. But all the next day the mask gradually takes over Trevor, talking on its own and dragging Trevor wherever it wants to go. And if Trevor isn’t in a specified place by midnight, the mask will stay on his face forever.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack?
Steve: I’ve always loved children’s books, especially the somewhat darker tales by such authors as Roald Dahl, John Bellairs, Edward Gorey, and Ray Bradbury. Halloween has always been a big influence on me, and I’m especially fascinated by masks and costumes. Ever since I read Bradbury’s excellent The Halloween Tree I wanted to write a book for kids on these subjects, but from a girl’s point of view. The result was The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters?
Steve: Our hero, Laura, is a young girl in middle school now making that initial transition from childhood into young adult. She’s sensitive, a dreamer, a girl who feels things very deeply. She loves her little brother Trevor, but he can also be quite annoying. He’s a typical little brother: sweet at times, brash and frustrating at times. He also brings out Laura’s strongest protective instincts.
Doctor Blaack, the owner of the mask shop, is the oddest, most mysterious person Laura has ever met. He resembles (and often sounds like) a very tall goat, and Laura is never sure if he is telling her the complete truth or not. His assistant, Beakman, is a short skinny man who has been trapped inside a bird costume for many years. He has to be fed through a small hole at the end of the enormous beak he wears.
DJ: What is the setting of The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack like?
Steve: There are two major settings in The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack. There’s the world of the town, which is a pretty typical mid-western setting everyone will recognize. And then there’s the world of Doctor Blaack’s mask shop, a dark and magical place where the laws of physics seemingly do not apply.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack?
Steve: I love writing extremely detailed descriptions of strange settings—the hotel in Deadfall Hotel, the prison in Ubo, the transformed Southern setting of Blood Kin—and in this book Doctor Blaack’s mask shop is just such a setting. It gave me the opportunity to make up all kinds of otherworldly costumes in a shop where both perspective and geometry are skewed. It was great fun.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Steve: I suspect they will be talking about the long and involved journey those two children take as they race to get back to Doctor Blaack’s shop before the clock turns midnight. I also think they’ll be recalling Halloween adventures of their own.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it?
Steve: I wanted to write a book that both boys and girls, men and women would like about one of our most unique holidays. And I wanted it to be from a girl’s point of view. I’m a great admirer of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree (there’s even a nod to it in one scene of Doctor Blaack). That book is very much about the experiences of boys. I wanted this book to shine a light on a girl’s experience of Halloween.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack that you can share with us?
Steve: From chapter 4–“Faces of angels and faces of devils. Faces of witches, vampires, werewolves, and mummies. Faces that weren’t really faces at all. Faces of robots, cars, rocket ships, and even a toaster. A toaster! Cats and dogs and rats and rabbits, chicks and lizards and bumble bees. Every superhero face from every comic book she’d ever heard of, every hero who had ever flown, run, crawled, or moved mountains with his or her bare hands. All the pretend faces and all the faces she saw each and every day. And all the hidden, secret faces she never wanted to see, ever.”
DJ: Now that The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is released, what is next for you?
Steve: In the first half of next year I have two short story collections coming out. In January, from Omnium Gatherum Press, is Everything Is Fine Now, a collection of the best of my stories for children and young adults (although adults are likely to enjoy them as well). Following a few months after that is The Night Doctor & Others from Centipede Press. This volume collects the best of my horror fiction from the past few years, along with two new stories.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Rasnic-Tem/e/B001JRYPX6/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Solaris Books: http://www.solarisbooks.com/post/383
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is published by Hex Publishers LLC and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Fall is Laura’s favorite time of year, but this autumn, things are different. She’s a teenager now, and the season brings new changes and challenges. Laura’s decided she’s too old for trick-or-treating and wants a more grown-up Halloween experience with her friends. Unfortunately for Laura, her parents tell her she has to take her little brother, Trevor, out trick-or-treating first. When they go shopping for Halloween costumes, they stumble upon a very strange shop and its even stranger proprietor. When Trevor tries on the wrong mask, the consequences are exciting…and dangerous.
Written by Bram Stoker-, International Horror Guild-, World Fantasy-, British Fantasy Award-winner, Steve Rasnic Tem.
About the Author:
Jon Hollins is a pseudonym for urban fantasy author Jonathan Wood whose debut novel (No Hero) was described by Publishers Weekly as a funny, dark, rip-roaring adventure with a lot of heart, highly recommended for urban fantasy and light science fiction readers alike. Barnesandnoble.com listed it has one of the 20 best paranormal fantasies of the past decade, and Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels described it as, so funny I laughed out loud. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Chizine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, as well as anthologies such as The Book of Cthulhu 2 and The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year One.