I can’t believe that Aiden and I haven’t done an interview until now! I looked through all my files, convinced that we had… but here we are!
I wish I could remember when Aiden and I first crossed paths… I believe we met through the horror community on Twitter. I do know that in one of the first emails that I got from him had a few stories attached, and he added wonderful content warnings with each title. The breakdown there was absolutely wonderful. Still to this day, I haven’t seen anyone be as clear with their content warnings as Aiden is, which makes his work that much more important to me.
On my reviews of his works, I’ve had people reach out and say how much they appreciate the warnings as they want to try horror, but are nervous about how dark it can get. So what a great way to dive in to the genre with Aiden’s work!
Over the last few years, Aiden and I have been in contact for various projects. Including my quote on his novel, Horrific Holidays: “Aiden Merchant was asked for something bloodier and, boy, did he deliver!“
If you haven’t picked up any of Aiden’s works yet, now’s the time! 🙂
Let’s dive in to the interview!
Interview with Aiden Merchant, author of Dead as Soon as Born, Kill for Them, Horrific Holidays & more!
Who is Aiden Merchant?
Aiden Merchant is the author of several collections of dark fiction and crime. He was raised on Goosebumps and Stories to Tell in the Dark. He’s appeared in the Blood Rites Horror anthology, Wild Violence, and co-edited Black Dogs, Black Tales for Things in the Well, alongside Tabatha Wood and a number of other talented writers. In 2022, he has several more collections expected to release, as well as a novel or two. He lives along the Appalachian Mountains with his wife and kids.
What is your first memory of writing for fun?
In the third grade, we had a class assignment to write a book, which we self-published and professionally printed to take home. I wrote a story about my turtles. I used to save them from the road all the time. We even had a farm on several different occasions, like a pen full of rescued turtles. Anyway, that would be the first assignment I remember leaving an impact on me. On my own time, I was writing stories around that time frame, give or take. I would see movies I loved and write fan fiction, I suppose. I had “books” that were reimagined versions of The Mummy Returns, Small Soldiers, and Inspector Gadget.
How many books/novellas/short stories have you written?
Jesus, more than I can remember. I have self-published three collections of short fiction so far. Over the course of 2021 and 2022, I have another three collections expected, one or two novels, and a screenplay miniseries. However, I’ve written a few books that will never see the light of day in their current states. All of them are planned for rewrites, though. There’s probably two thousand pages of stories sitting on my computer that are just not fit for public release.
I returned to writing fiction in 2012, if I remember correctly. Since then, I’ve gone through several phases of writing hard or hardly writing, so I was a bit scattered for seven years before finally self-publishing some stuff. The best stories from that time frame appeared in Dead as Soon as Born and Kill for Them in 2019. Of the novels I’ve written and need to rewrite, there’s a large sci-fi/horror epic, a gritty crime/drama, and a detective novel. There are also several novels and novellas currently undergoing rewrites in hopes that I will get them published next year.
What are some of your other interests outside of writing?
When I was younger, I had plenty of outside interests. I was very athletic, for one, but then my health conditions became too much for me. These days, if I’m not writing, my downtime is spent reading and playing with my family. I’ve gotten old!
Are you also a reader?
I’m a big time reader. Like writing, it’s come in waves, though. As a kid, I was raised on books. In first grade, I was reading books on a fifth grade level. It made my librarian complain to the principal. My parents had to come to the school and tell them, yes, he reads this stuff. Now, let him do it. I would have a tall stack of books on my nightstand at all times. This died out in middle school, due to school reading requirements. By high school, I wasn’t reading anything I wasn’t required to read. Basically, school killed my love of reading for years. It wasn’t until my twenties that I gradually returned to it, largely thanks to the work of Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, and Michael Crichton. Around 2018, I broke my dry streak once more and returned harder to reading than I had since I was a kid. Now, I read around a hundred titles a year. Granted, these are of varying lengths, but when you have kids and a job and books to write, that’s still a lot of reading!
What genres do you reach for the most?
Growing up, it was horror and fantasy. In my twenties, it was a lot of crime, mystery, and suspense, coupled with whatever Stephen King was cooking up. Nowadays, it’s horror more than anything. But that’s partly because I found myself in the horror community by accident when I started building an online presence for my own writing. I love crime and suspense, and am gradually moving towards placing more of those books on my radar.
Do you have an all time favorite book or author?
I wouldn’t label anything or anyone an all time favorite. That being said, I’ve read The Hobbit more than any other book. I don’t re-read often (practically, never), so having read that book five or six times is a big deal for me. As for the authors I’ve read more than any others, I’ll have to repeat these names: Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, and Michael Crichton. That being said, I haven’t read any of them much in years. King, yes, still a couple a year. But the others, I’ve pretty much read everything they’ve ever released.
Book Related Questions
Out At Sea will forever be one of the most unsettling tales that has embedded itself in my brain. Perhaps because I grew up on an island, but horror set on or around the ocean always gets me. Did you have inspiration for this tale that you could share with us?
Oh, I have big inspiration for that story. The trench creatures in the new 52 series of Aquaman really haunted me. Ever since reading that early story arc, I’ve wanted to feature those sort of aquatic monsters whenever possible! They’re so vicious and terrifying! There was also a movie I saw pieces of as a young child that gave me nightmares. All I remember of it is a ship of pirates floating into a cave and some monsters tear them into bloody pieces. As an adult replaying this memory, I’ve always imagined the trench creatures were the ones that did the deed. In actuality, I don’t know if the movie ever showed the monsters. I just remember screams and blood and gore being tossed about in the darkness.
Horrific Holidays Volume One is a killer collection of holiday horror. This is a collection that I’ve already found myself returning to during certain holidays to re-read the stories. Have you begun any new shorts that may eventually be included in a second volume?
When I was writing that collection, I wrote several different stories for Thanksgiving. I knew I couldn’t include more than one story per holiday, so the others were set aside. One of them still seems good, so it may appear in Volume 2. There was also a time a couple months ago where I randomly thought up a bunch of new ideas and wrote them down, but I somehow lost the document that included those notes! The only one I remember expands upon “House of Eggs,” and kind of explains how it all happens. The thing is, that idea is probably large enough to be a novella or novel of its own, so it may not ever be in a collection. Though Volume 2 is planned, it probably won’t appear in 2022. I have too many other releases already written for next year as it is. I would say it’s more likely to return in 2023. I’m going to try to do some holidays I didn’t touch on the first time around. Of course, they’ll have to be the lesser known ones, which makes it a bit trickier. It’s tempting to just use the same ideas as Volume 1, but with different characters and stories to go with those ideas – for example, a different New Year’s Eve sacrifice taking place at one of the other ritualistic houses – but I also know that doing such a thing would be a slap in the face to readers. I want the next batch to be just as original as the first.
You seem to always have loads of projects going on at once. How do you balance everything with your work and personal life?
I don’t! I’m a mess! I have depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and more. That’s why I have so many projects going at once. Most of them get set aside eventually, and wait years for my return. It’s a problem, really. Unfortunately, I get very, very little time to myself without having to force it. I try to remind my wife that making time for my writing is important because – some day – it’s going to pay the bills. Then I won’t have to work shitty day jobs anymore. I can just stay home and write and be with my family. Luckily, my wife is very understanding and supportive of my dream. But it still starts fights on a regular basis. We are all overstressed and overtired all the time because of the kids, you know?
What are you currently working on that you can share or hint at?
Plenty! I am currently on draft four (?) of Shifty Things, which is being expanded into a novel at this point. I talked with Daniel Barnett on the phone for hours last week about ways to improve the story, and it made me really excited to begin rewrites next month. Shifty Things is a post-apocalyptic horror story about a girl, her father, and her uncle traveling into North Carolina while avoiding the shadow creatures that have wiped out the planet. Early on, they come across an Eden of sorts – a farm with a well-stocked house and security features. Such a thing doesn’t exist in this world anymore. The thing is there’s something clearly wrong with this place; it’s too good to be true. Shifty Things isn’t only about evil represented by the shadow creatures, but the evil in people.
There’s also my miniseries screenplay, Love&Eyes, detailing Gina Charter’s backstory. This screenplay is ten episodes and over 500 pages long. I wrote it between 2017-2018. It’s been waiting around ever since. I have an author friend who has offered to show the screenplay to his producer friend, so that’s why I’m holding off on releasing it once more. Originally, it was going to come out this summer. Because of its size, I’d decided to split it into several volumes over the course of 2021. In 2022, I would then collect them in some big hardback for collectors. Depending on the whole producer thing, this may still happen, but on a different schedule. We’ll just see in the coming months.
I also mentioned before that I have three more story collections for 2022. Moving forward, I am planning to make my collections between 150-200 pages each, that way they are cheaper and more approachable. Dead as Soon as Born was over 500 pages, if you recall. I want them to be more like Horrific Holidays in size instead. A little bigger, but not by much. I already have over 400 pages of stories ready for editing to release. That’s two collections right there. I have another batch of stories that are currently subbed to publishers; whatever is rejected will be for the third collection. I have numerous outlines for stories to write still, as well.
The last project I will note is in current production for July, and that’s the debut issue of Snow-Capped Press Magazine. I will have a story or two inside that have yet to be released elsewhere. The real highlight will be the other contributing authors, though – I can’t wait to see who all ends up in this issue! I know a couple of names with confirmed features of some sort.
Just one last question; Where can readers find you?
Thanks for reading!
And major thanks to Aiden Merchant for taking the time to do this interview, especially where he’s currently juggling so many things!
If you haven’t checked out his work yet, I highly recommend doing so!