Interview with Michael Schutz-Ryan
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
I live in California now, but I’m a Midwestern guy. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, long enough ago that I remember playing outside until the street lights came on. Terrible winters inspired my move out to San Francisco, but then I discovered that the Bay Area is cold and grey most of the time! I’m in northern California now, with my husband and our three furry cat children.
You've released your debut novel, Blood Vengeance. Can you tell us about the book?
It’s about a young man, Brennan Cooper, who moves to San Francisco for a fresh start. He finds out that a slain serial killer and his victims haunt the apartment downstairs. So on one level, the book is about Brennan, fighting to free the souls of these girls, trapped for all these years with their murderer. But Blood Vengeance is also about Brennan, this bullied kid, finding his way in a new city.
Why did you decide to write a horror novel, and what attracts you to the genre?
I have always loved horror. My mother raised me on Tales from the Darkside and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I started reading early Ray Bradbury—you know, the real dark, creepy stories from The October Country—and Stephen King pretty early on. I’m attracted to this idea that behind the reality we see and touch and smell every day, there is a dark side. Peter Straub writes a lot about that—tears in the fabric of reality, and the dark worlds lurking behind. Blood Vengeance is a coming-of-age story, a story of triumph that is very personal to me. I couldn't help but write it through the lens of horror.
You've also had a few short stories published in anthologies. Do you enjoy writing in the short form more than penning a novel, or vice versa? Or do you find they both have their own rewards?
They do each have their own rewards. A book is a long, complex journey. I can explore many themes and ideas in a novel, create a wide range of characters to populate the world. That’s fun. Freeing. But short stories are satisfying for the exact opposite reason. They can be quick and brutal. I get in, get out, scare the reader, put a disturbing thought it their heads and walk away.
Did anything surprise you during the process of writing your book?
I was surprised at how long it took! Short stories were my passion for a long time. Transitioning from ten pages to three hundred pages was harder than I had imagined. Here I thought I would just need to write a longer story, but it turns out there’s more to it than that. Just to scratch the surface, adding supporting characters and subplots was a new experience—and ended up as my favorite aspect of Blood Vengeance.
What do you find most challenging about being a writer and an author?
The writing is the easy part (more or less). Finding readers is much more difficult. I have this story—my book—and I think it’s good, it’s entertaining. I want to share that with other people. That’s my goal, to write stories for people.
Who has inspired you as an author?
As far as other writers, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King are huge influences. So are Hemingway and Steinbeck, though you might have to squint to see it! My friend Robert San Souci taught me much about the business of writing. A long list of teachers helped me along the way as well, especially Mari Newton who opened up my world to metaphor and imagery in writing.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I watch many, many movies. Horror films, of course, but I love the Academy Awards. I see all the winners and nominees—not always before the Oscars, but throughout the year afterwards.
What’s next for you?
My second book, Edging, is at the publishers, awaiting a release date. I started my third book just after New Year’s. There are many tears in reality I've yet to explore.
You can find out more about Michael and his books on his website:
You can also see a spotlight for his book Blood Vengeance here: