The Scariest Part: Mark Sheldon Talks About SARAH KILLIAN: THE MULLETS OF MADNESS

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Mark Sheldon, whose new novel is Sarah Killian: The Mullets of MadnessHere is the publisher’s description:

Have you ever woken one morning with a burning, insatiable desire to go out and kill someone?

Sarah Killian, notorious serial killer for hire, and cohort assassin, Mary Sue Keller, are back on assignment for the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) After receiving an ominous warning from a mark-gone-wrong, it becomes clear that Nick Jin — Sarah’s former nemesis — is still at large and singling Sarah out.

Sarah and Mary Sue are dispatched to Tennessee to discreetly kill off an accused family of KKK organizers, but their true mission is to lure Nick Jin into a trap. But will Nick Jin — who always seems several steps of T.H.E.M. — see their bait for what it is? Either way, one thing is guaranteed: blood will be shed.

In the spirit of Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz, and Joss Whedon, The Mullets of Madness is a truly unique blend of horror, suspense, and espionage.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Mark Sheldon:

When I wrote the first book of the Sarah Killian series, Sarah Killian: Serial Killer for Hire, it was not an easy headspace to get into. Being a violent sociopath, Sarah is not exactly a pleasant corner of my psyche to explore. And the fact that it was written in first-person narrative made it even harder to disassociate myself from the character and her point of view. I had to take frequent breaks from writing the first book to work on other projects just to clear my head and get into a healthier head-space, so to speak.

The second Sarah Killianbook, The Mullets of Madness, went much smoother — I wrote it in one go without taking any breaks — probably partly because Sarah’s targets in this book were alleged KKK members as opposed to high school students, so her moral justification was slightly easier to swallow.

So, for my own sanity if nothing else, I tend to try to steer away from the introspective analysis of where Sarah comes from in my mind. It’s also why I gave her such a snarky edge — she had to be someone that you hate to love, otherwise she just wouldn’t be readable.

That said, Mullets of Madness lent itself some nice opportunities for gore as I expanded on the world that Sarah lives in, and one in particular comes immediately to mind.

In the first book, we learned that Sarah works for a secret organization of professional killers for hire — the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) T.H.E.M. contracts Professional Serial Killers (P.S.K.’s) such as Sarah to perform covert contractual killings. When on assignment, Sarah will be placed into a community for months — sometimes years — at a time establishing two separate personalities: the “dupe” persona, the everyday person she pretends to be while on assignment, and the profile of the “killer,” who will commit the murders and then disappear at the end of the mission, to be forever labeled an unsolved crime. The covert necessity of Sarah’s assignments makes the Sarah Killian books a unique blend of slasher horror and espionage.

In The Mullets of Madness, I got to explore what happens when T.H.E.M. needs to dispose of a body that they don’t want to be found. While on assignment, Sarah gets attacked in her hotel room by an agent of her nemesis, excommunicated T.H.E.M. assassin Nick Jin. Sarah manages to thwart the attempt on her life but is left with the inconvenience of a corpse that the hotel’s housekeepers undoubtedly would have some questions about.

Fortunately, T.H.E.M. is always prepared. I admit I took an unhealthy macabre delight with inventing the Bond-esque gadgets that T.H.E.M.’s extraction team utilized to dispose of the inconvenient hotel room corpse — in fact it’s one of my favorite examples from both books of how horror and espionage can be blended together.

The morning after Sarah’s attempted assassination, two inconspicuous, blond-haired, blue-eyed, business-suited men with briefcases arrive at Sarah’s hotel room — the Yuppy Aryan Twins, as Sarah refers to them. While Sarah nonchalantly watches Saw on pay-per-view, the Yuppy Aryan Twins proceed to remove various tools and gadgets out of their briefcases, which they then use to dismantle the corpse, piece by piece. After each body part is removed the Yuppy Aryan Twins place the appendage into a device similar to those vacuum-suck-storage bags you can buy on infomercials, except these are a little more heavy-duty than the as-seen-on-TV models. With the T.H.E.M. model, you place an average-sized foot into the bag, and the vacuum compresses it down to the size of a tennis ball, which can be easily transported off of the hotel property without raising suspicion and properly disposed of elsewhere. Then all that’s needed is a bit of cleanup, and not even a Dateline blacklight would yield any clue that anything had happened in that hotel room.

Despite the difficulties with getting into the right headspace for Sarah, writing these books has been a rewarding experience and I look forward to further exploring how horror and espionage can be merged in the next book.

Sarah Killian: The Mullets of Madness: Amazon / Facebook page

Mark Sheldon: Facebook / Amazon Author Page

Mark Sheldon is the author of the Sarah Killian series, Sarah Killian: Serial Killer for Hire! and Sarah Killian: The Mullets of MadnessPrior to Sarah Killian, Mr. Sheldon has self-published Mores of the Maelstrom, a collection of short stories, and The Noricin Chronicles, a twelve-part sci-fi novel series that could be best described as a combination of Harry Potter, The X-Men, and The Da Vinci Code. Mr. Sheldon lives in Southern California with his wife, Betsy.

My Necon 39 Schedule

It’s almost time for Necon 39! From July 18th through July 21st, I will be returning to the famed “summer camp for horror writers” in Portsmouth, Rhode Island for my 18th year! Here’s my schedule while I’m there:

Friday, July 19th

9:00 a.m.     Mini-Golf (a Necon Olympic Event)
I won the gold medal in mini-golf last year, and I look forward to defending my title!

8:00 p.m.     Meet the Authors Party
I’ll be signing books all night, and will have a small selection of titles on hand to sell as well.

Saturday, July 20th

4:30 p.m.     It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! Writing Superheroes in the 21st Century
Rachel Autumn Deering, Christopher Golden, Carol Gyzander, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Errick Nunnally, Charles Rutledge
Following with this theme, Superman’s tagline used to be, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” a phrase that could be interpreted very differently today. Yet superheroes aren’t just persisting in 2019, they’re thriving. Our authors tell us how.

9:00 p.m.     The Infamous Necon Roast
Once again Jeff Strand and I will be co-hosting the annual Necon Roast. Who will be sitting in the hot seat this year? You’ll have to be there to find out!

Sunday, July 21st

11:00 a.m.     Necon Town Meeting
Come tell me and the rest of the convention committee what we did right, what we did wrong, and what you’d like to see next year.

I helped put together the panels again this year, and I’m very proud of how they turned out. Click here to see the full Necon 39 program.

See you at Necon!

The Scariest Part: Daniel P. Coughlin Talks About SATANIC PANIC

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Daniel P. Coughlin, whose new novel is Satanic PanicHere is the publisher’s description:

Satanic Panic, a mass hysteria created in the nineteen-eighties, has returned to a small college town in the Midwest. Ritualistic murders and the presence of the occult have bled below the surface of the town in the form of icy accidents and other coincidences. And when three lifelong friends find themselves on the radar of a killer — and leader of a satanic cult — they must fight for what’s good without being seduced by the evil that possesses their campus.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Daniel P. Coughlin:

Satanic Panic is a book about the progression and lineage of sin from inception to seduction to destruction. The scariest part about this book was presenting characters that make a steep departure from morality, but that a reader can still sympathize with and follow along their journey. Creating protagonists that need to be quickly connectable before being presented with moral conflict is not easy. The perception of Satanic Panic’s characters is left to you, dear reader, but know that many frustrating hours went into the “what if’s” of creating compelling characters that are flawed by age, new freedoms and basic biology.

The central characters are three friends who grew up together, Brock, Lance, and Brianna. Since an early age they’ve shared just about everything and are now budding into adulthood. Their bond is tight, but their bodies are developing sexually and they know each other too well to ignore their lustful thoughts. Honesty is something that they honor deeply and therefore, as maturing young adults, they will initiate the topic of lust and romantic feelings for each other. Quickly, they concede that attraction exists. Can they experiment without cracking the foundation of their bond, or should they suppress their secret desires?

The layering and complexities of pulling off a three-way sexual experience without insulting the reader’s sensibilities was a challenge especially since the conflict is presented very early in the book. Translating my vision into an effective experience for the reader was daunting. Good people conducting extraordinarily bad behavior is the basis of much storytelling, but crafting the complex nature of a relationship into a violent story needed finesse and precision. Wanting the reader to understand the devolving morality was key in understanding the voice of this piece. Evil is real. Evil is hungry. Evil will take everything. Before this evil devours the soul it shows its innocent attributes. “Its just sex, we’re being mature about it” segues into “who said this was wrong?” Once the characters lose their sense of morality their souls become subject to attack, both metaphorical and literal. Designing this kind of a relationship into the structure of a story about a murderous satanic cult was another terrifying strain.

College age loss of innocence paired with satanic sacrifice is a pretty blunt story idea so the book needed forms of relief at times. Dark humor seemed to fit. Flawed human beings self-destructing can be comedic.

So long as it’s you we’re talking about and not me.

Satanic Panic: Amazon / Powell’s / IndieBound

Daniel P. Coughlin: Website / Twitter

After graduating from high school in Watertown, Wisconsin, Daniel P. Coughlin joined the United States Marine Corps and served four and half years as an infantry Machinegunner in an Amphibious Raider Unit (Fox 2/4). After being Honorably discharged, Daniel attended and graduated from California State University at Long Beach. While studying screenwriting under the mentorship of acclaimed writer Brian Alan Lane, he also interned and served as a script analyst for his favorite director, Wes Craven. Daniel is the author of six novels and an anthology of short fiction. Daniel is a proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association (Los Angeles chapter). He holds a professional certificate in Technical and Professional Writing from Cal State Dominguez Hills and a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University.


My Best Friend’s Exorcism

My Best Friend's ExorcismMy Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this novel! It’s frightening and suspenseful, but also funny, charming, and at times delightful. Grady Hendrix writes teenage girls so convincingly I can only assume he was one in a previous life. At the heart of MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM is Abby and Gretchen’s friendship, with all its ups and downs, frustrations and challenges, moments of deep connection and moments of supernatural terror, and because Hendrix portrays that friendship so realistically in its complexity, it keeps you invested throughout. The exorcism itself, when it comes, is both hilarious and profoundly emotional, and the end of the novel is beautiful. I can’t recommend it enough!

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