Hello, everyone. I hope your week hasn’t been too chaotic. I’ve been enjoying the extra time with my kids doing Christmas crafts and board games. I’ve also been trying to finish a few short stories before I go back to work on my next book. For today’s interview, I spoke with author David O’Hanlon about his latest release, Babysitter Massacre: Daddy’s Little Killer among other things.
David O’Hanlon lives in Arkansas with his two children. He works in several genres but generally gravitates back to his entertainment-driven brand of horror. David’s work is best known for its morally challenged protagonists, sharp dialogue, and cinematic stylings. He’s been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both in print and online.
EB: Welcome, David. Thanks for being here today. Can you tell us more about Babysitter’s Massacre: Daddy’s Little Killer? What inspired you to write it?
David: Daddy’s Little Killer is a love letter to slasher movies. We meet Larkin Combs on her first night as a babysitter and see how that one night sets off a chain of murders in the sleepy town of Kohler, Arkansas. Tonally, it’s more like the original Black Christmas in that it carries a lot more mystery and suspense than it does simple violence. It’s easy to write a story that’s just a highlight reel of cool kill scenes, but I wanted to go deeper with it. As for the inspiration, that’s a two-part answer, really.
Henrique Couto does a podcast called Weekly Spooky and that’s how we met. He made the film Babysitter Massacre which he plans on expanding into a series of movies but, unfortunately, COVID has put a hold on that happening for now. Henrique came up with the idea of doing a book series that would take place in the same universe in the interim. Because of our collaborations on Weekly Spooky, he knew I could write entertaining stories, and that I could write them very quickly—I did Daddy’s Little Killer in 9 days of actual writing. He basically said, “I want Fear Street with boobs and blood and a strong female lead that’s a babysitter,” and beyond that he gave me full creative control.
I saw this as a chance to really do some fun stuff that I hadn’t gotten the chance to before. It’s very easy to be repetitive with slasher stories and that’s why the subgenre has become fairly stagnant over the last thirty years. It used to be so diverse and entertaining, and I wanted to take the subgenre back to that and highlight some of the stuff that I always loved about it. So with Daddy’s Little Killer, I turned it all the way back to the predecessors of slasher flicks and drew heavily from the Italian giallo films of the 70s. What Have you Done to Solange? and Pieces were two of my biggest influences when I started planning the book, as well as the aforementioned Black Christmas and Dario Argento’s Phenomena.
I conceptualized this book in a different sort of way than I normally do. Normally, I have the idea for what I want the story to be and then start mapping it out. With Daddy’s Little Killer, I started off with what was basically an outline for the book I didn’t want to write and then worked out the major scenes using that as a list of things to avoid. So with this, I wanted to show everyone the killer in the first few pages and then fast-forward so you have no idea who they grew up to become. It becomes as much about the main character, Larkin, trying to solve the murders as it is about her trying to not become a victim and you only get the clues as she does… unless you’re paying close attention to the details. Unlike the latter-day slashers, the killer in this book is rooted in reality, instead of being some over-the-top, killing machine. I wanted it to walk that fine line between thriller and horror, and I think I pulled it off in a way that everyone’s going to have fun with.
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EB: What’s your next project and where can readers learn more about you?
David: I actually got the greenlight on two more books in the Babysitter Massacre series, so I’m in the planning stages for Book 2 right now. It’s going to be much more violent and fantastical than Daddy’s Little Killer. The working title is Family Splatters, and it follows a deranged old man who’s convinced his grandchild is the Antichrist, and the babysitter who tries to keep him from killing the kid. I can’t say too much, but there’s power tools and a flamethrower involved, so I cannot wait to get to the mayhem. This one is going to be so much fun!
I’m also getting another book ready for release under my own brand, Poverty Row Entertainment. The novel is a literary remake of a public domain film called Horror Express, starring the always impeccable duo of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It’s a common practice for editors to include PD stories in their anthologies, and I thought there’s this whole realm of movies out there that we’re not doing anything with. I’ve always wanted to work with licensed properties, and there’s a couple of film studios that I plan on reaching out to because they have some really awesome stuff out there that’s just being largely forgotten about. So, I saw Horror Express as a sort of proof-of-concept novel that shows what I have to offer in that arena, while also getting to have fun writing characters inspired by two of my favorite actors.
Aside from that, I have two more books finished that I need to edit/rewrite. One is a pulp-style detective collection with a lot of horror/weird menace stories set during Prohibition, and the other is a different kind of slasher piece. There’s also a slew of projects on my production slate in various stages of completion. I’ve got two novellas that I want to have done in the next four months for sure, and I’m doing a collection of Fourth of July stories that will be released the end of June 2021. So, if you love Daddy’s Little Killer, I have a lot more coming for you all in the new year.
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EB: What’s the first book you read that scared you?
David: Honestly, none of them. My imagination was my safe space from the real monsters in my life. Even though the stories were someone else’s work, I was still in control because it was up to me to visualize it and bring it to life. So for me, reading was never scary. The art in Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf used to give me goosebumps, because then I was seeing the artist’s vision for the scene, and I didn’t have my imagination to act as a buffer. There was a chapter or two in a little-known book called The Hope by James Lovegrove that I remember finding unsettling. Most of the books I’ve read, I don’t even remember the titles of anymore, but that one stuck with me. Movies were a different story, and I was absolutely terrified of Poltergeist!
EB: What does your family think of your writing?
David: I don’t really associate with my family outside of my kids. There’s a few nieces and nephews that keep up with me through social media, but that’s about it. As for my hooligans, they’re worlds apart from one another in terms of personalities and their outlooks.
My 8-year-old is sort of whatever about it. For him, it’s just Dad going to work again. He likes to come to me with crazy ideas sometimes and ask how the scenario could play out or something like that. He asked me once who would win a fight between Batman and Jason, and we sat there and just kept going back and forth with the idea until we had a pretty decent story going that would have made a great book series. He has fun with it, but it’s still just a job that Dad does more than it is anything else.
My 14-year-old is a little different. She likes reading my stuff and listens to my stories on Weekly Spooky. She also loves tearing it apart and pointing out plot holes and errors, because she’s a teenager and being a pain in the ass is what they do best. She gets to catch me slipping and that’s fun and engaging for her, but she also knows that it helps me become better. So I know she’s going to roast me for whatever I write, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It makes me a better writer, and she gets to say she’s proud of me and loves me without being mushy about it.
EB: I love hearing about kids being involved in their parents writing. That’s so awesome! Do you try to be original or to deliver readers what they want?
David: Both, I think. We see the same old stories over and over again because people love them. Everyone bitches about remakes and cliches and tired tropes, but those things continue selling whether as books, movies, video games, or whatever because they continue to entertain us no matter how many times we get it with a different packaging. I can’t tell you how many Bloodsport rip-offs I’ve seen, but I can tell you at least three of them starred the same actor! When it’s familiar like that, it gives us some comfort, and I think that boosts a story’s ability to help the reader escape the real world for a while. That’s the kind of writing I always set out to do. Life is miserable enough. I want to give people a safe place to go and be entertained. If people want a certain kind of book, I’m always happy to deliver.
I think the idea of writing for yourself is preposterous. I’m not the guy buying my books. My thoughts on it don’t matter. I’m writing for my fans. They’re buying the books, so they’re the ones that need to be happy with the story. I had a different ending in mind for Daddy’s Little Killer that was sort of a nod to The Godfather, but when I was writing it, I thought about my fans and went “nah, they’ll hate the character if I do that. I can’t end it that way.” Even though I felt the scene worked very well and had a lot of power to it, I cut it out and rewrote the epilogue. It’s always about the reader, and we are more comfortable with familiarity. I usually start with that.
What’s going to be accessible for the reader, and then how can I make that my own? That’s where the originality comes in. I don’t want to rewrite Jurassic Park, but if that’s what fans want, then I’ll play around with it and see how I can use the basic elements to give that to them. Maybe I can make it a theme park full of aliens and set it on the moon. Hell, Crichton did that himself when he wrote JP in the first place. It was Westworld, but the robots were replaced with dinosaurs. It’s the same story, but it’s not, and that’s where I try to go with each book or short story. After all, I’m an entertainer, so my fans should be entertained.
EB: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
David: Yes! I look at Isaac Asimov, who was one of the most prolific writers of all time and try to stick close to his methods. Asimov kept multiple stories going on different typewriters. Writer’s block is an illusion. You get stuck on a story, and you roll the chair to the next typewriter. I do that with my stories and keep multiple projects open in different tabs. If I’ve got writing time, then I’m going to use that time writing. I treat it like a production job, and I’ve set a quota for myself—1,000 words average per hour over the course of my week. That’s only 17 words a minute. If I can’t meet that goal, then I’m in the wrong business. Publishing has changed too much in recent years to stick to the old ways. You can’t take a year writing a book and another year editing and marketing it before it releases. Your fans have moved on by then because now EVERYONE can put out a book. It’s the most competitive industry in the world, and your fellow writers don’t need anything to get started. You have to be productive! Every day I spend dragging out a release is another casual fan that’s moved on. That gives me a lot of drive when I sit down to write, and once I’m in the groove, my mind stays there and that carries over into everything I do. When I hit a good stride on a story, I’m better in every facet of my day.
On the flip side, I keep so many irons in the fire that a lot of times I can’t sleep or focus because I’m working the next chapter in my head or I’m dissecting my writing looking for the potential stories hidden within. There’s always a spinoff or a sequel lurking in anything I do. I can have a character appear for a chapter or two and they strike a chord, and I want to see them again. With the Babysitter Massacre books, we’re trying to keep the momentum of one going right into the sales for the next one, so I don’t have the luxury of saying, “I don’t feel like writing today,” and today I really didn’t, but I did anyway. And as soon as I get done with this interview, I have to cook dinner and then edit another 30 pages of Horror Express, and then I have to get up in a few hours and go to my day job, and then I’ll use my lunch break to write, and then I’ll be home and writing again! It’s absolutely exhausting, but it’s something that has to be done. If I don’t love it enough to sacrifice for it, then I shouldn’t be doing it. It’s all about mindset. If you have all the talent in the world, it doesn’t mean shit unless you have the tenacity to use it.
EB: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?
David: As I mentioned before, I’m a regular contributor for Weekly Spooky, which you can get through your favorite podcast app or listen to on YouTube. You can also find it at WeeklySpooky.com. Check out episodes 33, 36, 38, 46, 53, 55, and 58 for my work, and I’ll have a new one coming out on December 30th! So, if you’re not sure about buying the book, you can check out my work there completely for free.
And if you have any other questions, you can totally hit me up on the Facebook page or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I love hearing from fans and new readers and sharing notes with other writers, so definitely give me a message.
EB: Thanks so much for joining us today! It was a pleasure having you here. Have a great rest of the week and happy holidays!
Well, guys, that’s all I have for you today. I have one more interview in store before taking a break for the upcoming holiday. Tomorrow’s featured book is a Christmas horror special, so make sure to come check it out. Thanks for stopping by! -E.B.