A huge tenatacled monster breaks a sailing ship in half.

I’m not sure this octopus likes this ship.

We’re here today with Russell C. Connor, the author of fourteen horror novels for adults, including the IPPY-award winning GOOD NEIGHBORS. For those young adults out there who like their horror on the light side, these books are NOT for you, as they contain a delicious amount of gore and salty language. For the rest of you, enjoy entering the darker world of Russell C. Connor, bwaahaahaa….

LL: In both your adult horror novels, WHITNEY and SARGASSO, you create water monsters that terrorize your characters. Even the descriptions of seaweed in Sargasso freaked me out. When you’re creating a monster and putting it on the page, what the most important part of evoking maximum fear?

RC: I always go with creatures that would scare me personally, but that’s not much of an answer because EVERYTHING scares me! I think the most important part of creating a monster—and the thing that truly frightens us the most—is showing how these imaginary creatures would hunt. As humans, we sit at the top of the food chain, we’re used to being the top dog, so when something comes along that can prey on us, it defies our very perception of our place in the universe. Knowing something is out there that wants to hunt you is a very unsettling thought.

LL:  Is it more unsettling to have those monsters in the ocean, rather than a river or a lake? I noticed both your creatures call the Big Blue their home.

A beautiful but ominous sunset over the ocean waves

This ocean shot looks pretty, but what lurks beneath?

RC: The ocean utterly terrifies me for the same reason that outer space does: they are BOUNDLESS and utterly UNKNOWABLE! We’ve explored just about every corner of this planet except for the deepest parts of the ocean. We have no idea what’s down there, what sort of creatures have evolved in the dark. It’s a fertile tool to use in horror because you can craft any hideous beast from the deep, and science has no way to prove that it’s not really down there somewhere.

LL: If you had to pick your favorite “hideous beast from the deep,” what would you pick, and why?

RC: There is a fantastic, relatively unknown movie that I’m utterly in love with called Deep Rising, about a cruise ship that falls under attack by gigantic, writhing tentacle monsters. The film has great characters, fun plot, good action, frightening creature design, and I always thought it deserved a sequel (which is hinted at near the end). You can actually see a lot of influence from this movie in my novel, SARGASSO.


A hideous tentacle in Deep Rising figures out how to turn a wheel.

LL: You talked about the similarities between space and the ocean, and I’ve often thought that deep water and the darkness have a similar effect in horror novels—you can’t see what’s coming for you. Can you talk a little about how you use both of these at the same time—darkness and deep water—to create terror?  

RC: Yes, I think that’s a common fear. I know lots of people that don’t like to swim in lakes just because you can’t see what’s around you. As for my work, there’s a scene I would point readers to in SARGASSO, where one of the character is trapped in the cabin of yacht that’s sinking. It’s almost pitch black, but there’s something swimming outside the glass, in the water where he’s about to have to go. When he gets out, he feels it brush against him. That scene stuck with me for a long time after I wrote it.

LL: Gah! And now I won’t be able to get that image out of my head. Thanks, Russell. I think those images stick with us because our fears have some basis in reality (there are some pretty nasty REAL water monsters out there). I know my worst nightmare: the salt-water croc. What real life water creature frightens you the most, and why?

RC:  Crocs are high on my list, too! My first instinct was to say sharks (even if you’re not bleeding, they can sense the electricity in your HEARTBEAT!), but I think we can get a little more creative than that. The pistol shrimp is only two centimeters long, but it can snap its claw in a way that produces a sonic boom louder than a gunshot to stun its prey. The noise is so loud it can burst a human’s eardrum! Why do we need to make up monsters when nature can create something like that?

A pistol shrimp shows his powerful and loud pincher.

It’s freaking me out that it’s sort of hairy.

LL: I had no idea this thing even existed. And I’m REALLY glad it’s small.

Thank you for visiting my monster blog, Russell! And for all you connoisseurs of terror out there, you can check out his website, www.darkfilament.com, for a full listing of his books.