An Interview with Chris Kullstroem about her Halloween Themed Stories…
Chris’s spooky, fun, and informative stories seem to demonstrate an inquiry into an unparalleled world of ghosts, goblins, Halloween-themed parties, activities, and events; something that I never really considered writing about—ever. And, it’s not because I’m afraid of the dark (I’m really not).
That’s also not why I keep two night lights when I go to sleep at night (I promise).
I actually never thought about Halloween writing—perhaps—because I just never thought about it before. Where as, Chris has traveled the world and wrote books about this kind of spooky subject matter. That—in effect—got me curious. So, I reached out to her for an interview.
As a kid, were you interested in the spooky, creepy, and were you a big fan of Halloween?
I’ve always loved Halloween, but it was really my older brother who got me interested in horror. When I was about five, I thought he was the bravest person on the planet for being able to read books by Stephen King and watch horror movies without getting paralyzed from fear—and he was only eight! But when I finally watched a few movies with him, I found they were more cool than scary. And it was the same when I later read Stephen King. I’ve been hooked on horror ever since.
Was there a period in your life when you forgot about your love for these dark worlds? If so, what brought you back into them?
Never. How could anyone forget a love for something so wonderful? 😊
Have you always been a writer? Has your content always dealt with Halloween?
I wrote lots of short stories as a kid, but began writing about Halloween in my early twenties. There was so much content out there in magazines and books about Halloween crafts people could make for their children: tips for parents to make costumes and party decorations. By that time, I had been celebrating Halloween for the entire month of October for years. Each week I would make displays and plan elaborate parties and outings with my friends. So I decided to write a few articles to give adults fun things to do for the Halloween season. Those articles eventually turned into a book: Making a Monstrous Halloween (though its working title was Halloween: Making the Season.)
In your book, ‘DRAWN TO DARK’, you discuss some of the world’s most legendary scare shows. What inspired you to travel across the world to write about it?
After I finished my third book (Deadly Roles), I took a break from writing to go to grad school. In those three years, I spent a month each summer traveling abroad. The trips were based around attending haunted attractions, dark-themed museums and ghost tours in the U.K., Europe and Australia. I found that none of the shows or venues had anything to do with Halloween, and most of them were open year-round. I decided that once I was done with graduate school, I would dedicate a full year to traveling to monster shows abroad and write my next book about it. I wanted people who ran and worked at haunts in the U.S. to see what other countries were doing for their shows, and for international readers to see how a typical, Halloween-buff American experienced those types of shows.
Was it scary leaving your job and home to experience this kind of world? Any regrets?
It was much more exciting than scary. I liked having absolutely no idea how I would finish the journey, or where I would end up. Incredibly, I ended up concluding it all with a friend I made at a haunted attraction’s conference a few months before leaving the U.S. I gave a talk at Orlando’s Spooky Empire conference and met Mark Muncy, a haunt owner and fellow writer. We stayed in contact the entire year of my trip. I think he and his family enjoyed watching the adventures as much as I loved doing them! I was so happy to make their home haunt “Hellview Cemetery” the final chapter in Drawn to the Dark.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while traveling to these legendary scare shows?
It was incredible to find people in every country who were as excited about these shows as I was. Everyone I stayed with (all of whom were members of the Couchsurfing community) were excited to meet someone who not only shared their interest in monster characters, but who had come so far to see a show that they had grown up with. Everyone shared their stories about what it was like to grow up with creatures like the Krampus in Austria and the Namahage in Japan. Those personal insights made it all so much more meaningful.
What did you learn most about yourself during your travels to these scare shows?
I learned that the unknown is much more exciting in real life than it is in any movie or fictional book. I think the main reason a lot of people don’t travel for a year or leave their homes or jobs (that is, the people who would really like to) is because they aren’t comfortable with not knowing where they’ll end up. But that’s the best part, isn’t it? Anything can happen. It’s the adventure of it all that makes it so exciting.
I’m curious to know what kind of people you met in this somewhat, underground culture?
The people I met were actually no different than you or me. My hosts were always kind, curious, and open-minded, and eager to share a part of their history. And it was the same with every actor I met who played a monster character of any type. It was incredible to meet so many people who were just happy to make a new friend.
Are there writers that you draw inspiration from?
Two writers who really inspired me were Charles Wilkin, who wrote, In the Land of Long Fingernails, and Caitlin Doughty, who wrote, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Both are real-life stories about the author being exposed to completely different worlds through their work. Wilkins writes about a summer spent as a gravedigger when he was a teenager, and Doughty writes about first becoming a mortician. They’re also both hilarious and really bring the reader into the mindset of the author. That’s what Drawn to the Dark is meant to do.
Are you planning any upcoming trips, or working on any new projects?
I just finished my latest manuscript: Driving Halloween. It’s a travel narrative that takes readers through haunted attractions in eleven states. The shows are each some of the best in the country, and each reveal changes in Halloween tradition over the centuries. My next travel project will take place this summer… though its devious announcement is still a few months off. Beware…!
What’s one piece of advice you would tell fellow authors?
Always write what you love—and always do what you love. Life is too short to do otherwise. And remember: this is coming from a person who focuses all their attention on the theatrical portrayal of death.
Chris lives in Tampa, Florida. For more information about Chris’s books, check out her website: www.monstersandbooks.com
If you're an author, or in the writing business & would like to be interviewed, contact Preston at pcopeland2345.gmail.com