Hollywood routinely delivers no shortage of scary imagery – malevolent aliens, mutant monsters, brain chomping zombies. Of all the worst nightmares that can be unleashed in the imagination of a parent, however, is the heart-stopping fear that s/he might one day be unable to do anything for a beloved child with a life-threatening illness. For families such as these, there is perhaps no better godsend on the planet than a place like Ronald McDonald House.
From its Philadelphia origins in 1974, the collaborative efforts of RMH’s medical staff, social workers and volunteers have enabled this iconic charity to evolve into a multifaceted international platform that serves the needs of over 2,000 families per year. Passionate collaboration is also at the heart of Dark Light, a new anthology that not only made its debut this summer but will also be donating proceeds to ensure that the work of this organization can continue to deliver miracles.
Author/editor Carl Hose took time from his busy schedule to share some background on how this particular story collection came about and why RMH is a cause that’s close to his heart.
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett
Let’s start out with some background about you, your career path, and what your inspiration was to pursue the writing life.
I started writing when I was about thirteen. When I reached high school, I’d actually skip out of school not to run around, but to sit at home with my typewriter and create stories. A lot of what I wrote back then were my own stories based on a cop show character called Baretta. When I tired of that, I started writing original stuff, none of which was very good. I started submitting to magazines and basement press publications way before my work was ready for print, so there were plenty of rejections. I hung on to those rejections for inspiration. I figured rejection slips were a sign I was at least trying! The more I submitted, the more acceptances I got, and the more acceptances I got, the more my work was purchased and published. Eventually, the rejections became less than the acceptances. Writing is something that needs to be pursued with vigor if you want to succeed, and believe me, I have been vigorous!
Do you recall some of the books and authors that influenced your perspectives about the world and your place in it?
Some of my early writing was shaped by the Execution paperbacks by Don Pendleton and all the pulp Doc Savage books that Bantam published way back when I was a kid. I was also inspired by the TV police dramas like Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, Kojak—that sort of thing. Earlier, though, my dad and stepmom took me to see movies like The Exorcist, Last House on the Left, and the classic Don’t Look in the Basement. Seeing those on a big screen at the drive-in really had a huge impact on my writing. Mark Twain is always an inspiration, and as I got older, I discovered Stephen King, Graham Masterton, and Robert McCammon. Nowadays, with the explosion in indie publishing, I am discovering many writers who inspire me.
Tell us a little about your anthology and what inspired you to make it your priority project.
It all began when my wife and I had a baby girl named Ireland on January 27th. She was premature and had to spend time in NICU. The hospital was quite far from our house and we wanted to spend every minute with her. We were going to sleep in her room, but the hospital set us up with the Ronald McDonald House.
At the time I was marginally familiar with what they do, but had never really paid a lot of attention to the organization. It’s amazing! They gave us a place to stay that basically amounted to a pretty nice hotel room. They cooked three meals a day and we had access to the kitchen at all hours of the night. The organization is run primarily on volunteers. We were in there on Valentine’s Day and they even provided cards so none of the guests had to worry about it. It was all about making it convenient, leaving nothing for guests to do except concentrate on their children in the hospital. They do this around the clock, twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year.
All my wife and I did was walk back and forth between the Ronald McDonald House and the hospital for three weeks, feeding our baby, holding her, giving her the love and attention we were sure she needed to develop and survive. One night as we were taking a breather in our room, I told my wife I wanted to find a way to repay RMH. I came up with the idea for the anthology. The title came pretty quickly. Dark Light signifies horror writers writing for a good cause. My wife Marcee loved the idea, so I literally contacted writers through Facebook and asked if they would participate. Almost none of the writers I contacted said no. Dark Markets jumped in and listed the call for submissions and I got a couple of stories that way, too. In total, there are 42 writers and 44 stories in the book. A couple of the writers contributed double. Nearly 600 pages and 168,130 words. That’s a lot of heart!
Not to mention a lot of work!
I wanted to keep it simple. I basically asked writers to submit a horror story, any length, any theme, new or reprinted. On my walks to and from the hospital, I would check my Facebook and feel so excited and touched each time one of these amazing authors responded that he or she would participate. I can literally remember where I was and what I was doing when I received messages from these authors saying they’d be happy to participate. I actually pitched this idea to the staff at RMH before I even left. I was afraid they might not like the idea of taking money from a book by a bunch of horror writers, but they thought the idea was a good one and were excited about the project.
I started contacting writers in early February. For a June release date, that’s an extremely fast time span to have pulled together this many authors, edit the stories, get contracts signed, bios gathered—they didn’t play around. They all responded quickly and did what they could do to help me move the project along. My wife did the cover, three of us read and edited the book, and the final touches are being put on right now.
Where will readers be able to get a copy?
The book will be available digitally at Amazon for Kindle, Barnes and Noble for the Nook, the Apple store for iPad, and also for the Sony Reader. It will be available in print at Amazon and in as many brick and mortar stores and online bookstores as I can get it in. I’ve got a pretty wide distribution set up in place. I’m publishing it through my MARLvision Publishing imprint.
Here’s what some of the writers had to say about contributing to the anthology:
“When Carl asked me to contribute a story for Dark Light, I felt that ‘When Shadows Come Back’ was a perfect fit for both the title and the idea. It’s an honor to have my story reprinted in an anthology that is for a good cause, and also one that is close to the heart of the editor”—Nancy Kilpatrick (When Shadows Come Back)
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“When someone you love has a serious medical condition, it can literally feel like the world is crumbling around you. It’s like this personal apocalypse where fear and uncertainty hold sway. But the Ronald McDonald House provides in the real world what the characters in my stories need so badly: a ray of hope in the face of adversity and safe harbor in trying times”—William Todd Rose (Hunters)
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“I decided to get involved with Dark Light for two reasons. On a general level, I wanted to help the Ronald McDonald House. Growing up, my family was poor, the kind of poor where you’re wearing coats that don’t quite fit in the winter and each new school term comes with a new place to live, sometimes yours, sometimes a friend’s or a relative’s, and sometimes neither. Any organization that helps people who need it and especially one that helps families stay together is, I think, necessary and deserving of whatever any of us can give or do. On a more specific level, I wanted to help because one of my best friends stayed at a Ronald McDonald House as a young teen. Without them, she would have been separated from her family when she needed them most. This is my way of thanking her for all she’s done for me. Dark Light is a great anthology, and I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to such a deserving cause”—Chris Shearer (The Long Wait)
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Ronald McDonald House provides much needed services to families of critically ill children, allowing them to be close in times of need. This organization has helped families all over the world and giving a story to help benefit them is the least I can do to help give back to this wonderful charity—Joseph Mulak (Cognitive)
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“I was touched by Carl’s personal experience at the Ronald McDonald House, and I didn’t want to pass up the chance of having my work appear in the company of some of the best and brightest in the horror biz. And the darkest”—Randy Chandler (3:33 and Death Comes Calling)
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“As a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the necessity of a support system such as the national network of Ronald McDonald houses. As a writer, submitting to Dark Light was a way for me to provide not only an entertaining story for an awesome anthology, but a heartfelt contribution to a charity that gives so much to families when they feel as if they have so little. In Dark Light, MARLvision Publishing pulls from the crème de la crème of the horror industry, joining together to shine light into the darkness of childhood illnesses through the donation of the anthology proceeds”—Angeline Hawkes (Shattered Mirrors and Smokeless Flames)
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How do you think this book will resonate with readers?
Well, I certainly want readers to be entertained, and I believe they will. There are so many fans of each of these writers, and to have all of these fans mingling together and discovering other writers they might enjoy as well, that’s a really cool thing. What I’d like readers to take away from the reading experience, besides having been entertained, is that while the world may be a dark place, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. That sort of goes along with the title. I’d also like them to keep in mind the project was accomplished by the sheer generosity of people who didn’t need to get involved but did so because they cared to pause a moment and help me give back. And these are horror writers. We don’t always have the best reputations.
What’s next on your plate?
I’m working on my novel Evil Resurrection, a novel with William Todd Rose called Black Rain, and an as-yet-untitled novella with Walt Hicks. William Todd Rose and Walt Hicks have stories in the Dark Light anthology as well.
Anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about the book?
I’m just a writer who adores my family and appreciates what life brings me. Anyone who is interested can find me on Facebook, along with more info on Dark Light, or at http://www.carlhose.net.