An Interview with Christian Smith, first-time author of The Black Monkey

To begin, please introduce yourself to our audience. What is your name? Who are you? What books have you written? Etc.
My name is Christian H. Smith. I hail from the most “mid” of Midwestern towns: Springfield, Illinois. The Black Monkey is my first published novel.

What first inspired you to become a writer? And what compels you to continue your career as an author?  
I wrote my first short story when I was 8 years old. Titled “The Haunted House,” it was a horror story based on a dream I had. This set a powerful precedent, as “horror stories based on dreams” describes most of my adult writing. (I have some pretty messed-up dreams.) As for what compels me to continue as an author, I suspect it’s a rather extreme form of obsessive/compulsive disorder.

What is the first book you read that made you fall in love with literature? 
There were actually three, all of which I read and re-read when I was probably 12 or 13. (I was never one for books appropriate to my age group.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams blew me away with its boundless wit and inventiveness. It was also, of course, funny as hell. Adams had such a whacked-out prose style and showed me some of the effects an author can achieve just from how the language is deployed.

The World According to Garp by John Irving taught me that a book can be both literate and entertaining, and that writing about sex and death can be funny and sad at the same time. It also taught me that there are some things you shouldn’t even do in a parked car.

The Shining by Stephen King – of course. Kind of like how punk music inspires people to pick up a guitar and start a band, King inspired me by making it look easy. (Of course, it’s really not.) He also showed that fantastic and supernatural situations are made infinitely more believable when they’re seen through the eyes of realistic and compelling characters.

What do you think is the most difficult part of being a writer? What is the most rewarding part?
The most difficult part is finding a platform and an audience. The most rewarding part is having readers crawl into these crazy worlds that had previously only existed in your own imagination, and meeting all the people that live there.

What is your most recent work? What can audiences expect from this book or series?
The Black Monkey
, the first book in the “Bloody Bakersfield” series, is about young children summoning an ancient evil to combat a serial killer who’s terrorizing their small Midwestern town.

Every Halloween, the children of Bakersfield, Illinois gather in a cornfield to bury a stuffed monkey, along with sacrificial offerings of trick-or-treat candy. The strange rite is mostly an excuse for partying and making out, the origins of the curious tradition long forgotten. The same night ten-year-old Jess Tate witnesses the mysterious ritual, his sister Paula is brutally murdered- the first victim of “The Snowman,” a depraved monster stalking the town’s children. As the killer eludes capture and his death toll mounts, hysteria grips the small rural community. An uncommonly brave and resourceful boy, Jess believes that the monkey ritual holds the key to stopping the murders that are tearing his town and his family apart.

The book presents more of a psychological horror than a violent gore-fest. I try to build a mood of mounting fear and hopelessness that drives my young protagonists to resort to the blackest magic as a defense against the depraved “Snowman” killer.

Future installments of the series will jump ahead in time, to follow the (surviving) characters as they return to Bakersfield as adults to face evil both supernatural and mundane.

What do you think are the most common misconceptions about writers? 
That we’re a bunch of depressive alcoholic misanthropes with deep-seated psychological problems and tendencies towards sexual perversion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of us don’t even drink.

Why did you decide to join Permuted Press?
The decision was mostly theirs.  I’m excited that they took a chance on me and deeply honored to be on the same shelf with talented folks like Paul Mannering, Peter Clines, Mason James Cole and Iain McKinnon.

What are your dreams for the future as a writer?
I simply dream of having a future as a writer. I have many, many stories to tell. I’ve been writing for my whole life and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so until I die. (And perhaps beyond that . . . b-wah ha ha) It’s a terminal disease, after all. My fondest wish is to find an audience for my twisted imagination.

Is there anything else that you would like for people to know about yourself and your work?
In addition to novels, I have dabbled in screenwriting. Witch Child,an indie feature I co-wrote with Andrew and Angie Johnson-Schmit, just met its Kickstarter goal and is filming this summer.  It’s a supernatural horror movie about a down-on-his-luck archaeologist who must save his family from the ghost of an ancient witch. Judith O’Dea (the Barbara from the original Night of the Living Dead) has been cast in a small part!

I like to think I’m a versatile writer. Horror is kind of my home base, and most of what I’ve written is at least tinged by that genre. But I also write out-and-out comedy as well as a lot of things that don’t really fall into any genre that’s been invented yet. Certain recurring themes seem to seep into whatever I write, reflecting my obsessions with identity and gender, religion, dreams, sex, death and the supernatural. You know, the fun stuff.

Where can people find more information about you?
I’m still building my social media platform. In fact, I only recently learned what a social media platform is.  I am on Facebook – on Twitter @ChristianHSmith and even have a nascent blog: The movie has a website well worth checking out, too: