The weird western sub-genre that horror seems to be embracing has so much to offer up right now, and John Boden’s Walk the Darkness Down is an entry that just can not be missed. Lately we’ve seen westerns mixed with the fantastic, vampires, and zombies, but here we get an 1860’s dirty, gritty gunslinger tale mixed with elements of cosmic horror. Boden truly does an excellent job of establishing the aesthetic of the old west before taking us to some pretty far-out places. The main protagonists tend to speak in short, clipped phrases, the way we might expect Clint Eastwood to carry them.
The story follows two men named Keaton and Jones, who for different reasons are propelled forward on the path of a madman named Levi, who is razing every town he comes to. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happens, but we become strangely invested in the outcome of these characters. Along the way we meet Jubal, a child who with his young sisters (the less said about these 2 at the outset, the better) joins Keaton in tracking down Levi. Destiny, fate, or whatever you’d like to call it, brings everyone together for the third act. As we approach the climax, we find out what exactly Levi’s actions have been leading towards, and if you’re not horrified by where we’re headed, you’re not paying attention.
In Levi, Boden has created one of the most menacing and god-forsaken villains I’ve ever seen put to page. Every time a chapter featuring his point-of-view presented itself, I found myself simultaneously reluctant and eager to see what would be contained within. Watching his story progress is a bit like driving by the scene of a car accident. We learn early on that his actions are not necessarily his own. This helps us sympathize a bit, but also gives a glimpse of the craziness to come.
Walk the Darkness Down clocks in at 156 pages, but it still took me a couple weeks to read. Certainly not because the story wasn’t engaging, but more because of the literary quality of the writing. It begs for extra time to be processed and digested. The prose and the imagery remind us as much of Cormac McCarthy as the monstrosities (human and otherwise) remind us of Stephen King and his visits to Mid-World. What is also readily apparent is how much Boden enjoyed writing this work. Every page is filled with a storyteller’s passion, as well as a lot of fun allusions to writers within the genre.
If horror westerns are up your alley, I truly enjoyed reading this one and I think you will too. If you haven’t gotten around to any yet, this is a hell of a place to start. If you think this genre is not for you, maybe Mr. Boden can change your mind. I will be revisiting this lush world again, and I wouldn’t mind too much if John Boden had the same thought.
After reading the synopsis for S.H. Cooper’s The Festering Ones, I knew it was a story I had to experience. A family tragedy, monsters in the woods, a cult trying to rise their God into our world. All of my horror boxes were checked and I was all too eager to start this story. Let’s also take a second to admire the amazing cover art by Elderlemon Design. It perfectly captures the feel of this story, while giving you a glimpse of one of the horrifying monsters within.
This story opens with our main character, Faith, and a family tragedy that follows soon after. I was immediately drawn into the horror of the world that Cooper created. I’m not sure what it says about me, but after reading the emotionally brutal first chapter, I went and purchased a physical copy for myself. I already knew I was going to love the rest of this story.
We fast forward 20 years and Faith still has the same questions and answers that she had as a child. After learning of her mothers passing, she returns home to find her mother’s belongings. Which is full of articles and clippings related to Faith’s childhood tragedy. Thus, Faith indulges in all of her mothers information, and into the rabbit hole we go.
Cooper’s writing flows on the page and I could easily picture what was happening while adding in my own visions of what was unfolding.
This story is a 135 page roller coaster ride, and I loved every second of it. I was fully invested into Faith and her need for answers. The cult aspect of the story is fascinating and very creepy. The monsters Cooper creates and the realm they exist in, had me frightened every time they would intrude into her reality. I only wished I could have helped her along the way.
The ending is satisfying enough for me and also leaves the story open-ended, hopefully we will all be blessed with a sequel to this novella.
Overall, The Festering Ones is a fantastic, quick read on a rainy day, and one that will have you on the edge of your seat, anxious to discover what happens next. I have become a huge fan of S.H. Cooper and will be looking foreword to anything she releases in the future.
The Tunnellers is a short, tense read that will have the reader gripped from the very first page. Told as a series of entries by Dr. Armstrong, the epistolary format works really well to drop the reader right into the action, as Armstrong tries to untangle the events that brought mining foreman Kirkwood under his care.
The story has an old-fashioned feel to it, with the initial narrator presenting a forward, then expanding on the events at the end. And the framing device works, allowing The Tunnelers to read like one of the old classics of horror, giving an element of uncertainty to the events and really putting the reader into the mind of Armstrong. Aware of his obsession, Armstrong pushes on, researching the strange creatures while forcing Kirkwood to remember the events surrounding the mining accident.
Every piece of the puzzle fits nicely into place, and the story flows along at a good pace never feeling too fast nor too slow, matching the time constraints Armstrong finds himself in.
Overall, The Tunnelers is a great story, one that can easily be read in one sitting, and which will likely leave the reader pausing outside their basement door, listening to the strange sounds below, and wondering what, really, is that noise down there?
It’s a perfectly normal day when James gets on the bus to school. But normality soon turns to tragedy, as the school bus crashes into a lake–an accident that sets a whole town into mourning, and James on a path to uncover the town’s mysterious past. In doing so, he meets Dan, a police officer searching for the truth. They piece together how the accident fits in with the other mysterious happenings that his father investigated years before.
The actual events of A Parallel Abyss are engaging, with some really creepy imagery brought to the forefront. The quarry and river become the main focus, haunted by entities determined to drag down the town’s living inhabitants.
While the plot was engaging, the technical aspects made this book difficult to get into for long. There was a lot of head-hopping. Meaning it wasn’t always clear who’s POV we were in. The plot rushes alone which for some of the novel, carried it well enough, but the fast pace meant the character development suffered. We’re thrust from one event to the other, with no real conclusion as to how they all tie in together. There were parts where the novel definitely picked up, but it felt like the threads were dropped so quick it made it hard to follow.
The ending in particular felt rushed. Sometimes, an unresolved ending really works in a novel’s favour, but that’s not the case here. The climax felt almost skipped over, with so much happening in just a few pages, and neither James nor Dan gaining closure on the previous events.
Although some of the horror elements were really strong, the pacing and characters let it down. It never really felt like we actually got to know the two main characters much, except for the very bare bones of what was needed to serve the plot, and both felt a little too passive in a lot of instances – neither were particularly engaging. I was intrigued by the town and it’s strange events, but it felt like we didn’t get to see enough of the elements that could have really strengthened the novel.
This one gets 3 stars from me. Too rushed, with a lack of focus, but a few great, eerie moments buried in there all the same.
Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Thank you for giving us your time, Laurel. Your first published book, Whispers in the Dark came out December 2018. How has the response been?
Laurel Hightower (LH): It took a little while to gain any traction, but so far the majority of the reviews have been positive, for which I’m thankful! I would always encourage people to be honest in their reviews, because I want the book to reach the correct audience, but it’s pretty nerve-racking while you’re waiting to see if what you put out there is any good.
DHR: Would you mind expanding on why it took some time to gain traction?
LH: That delay was due mostly to my inexperience. Working with an indie press, I did understand that there wasn’t much of a marketing budget, but I didn’t have any clue how to market myself, or how to get the book to the right reviewers. I noticed that a couple of the other authors who’s books came out around the same time as mine had a lot of reviews, so I started backtracking, figuring out what they were doing and following suit. I didn’t know anyone in the horror community at that time to ask, but someone in Horror Aficionados on Goodreads mentioned Ladies of Horror Fiction, and that led me to submit my request to Sci-Fi & Scary. I was lucky that Sian Plummer accepted Whispers to review, which was in March, and then it took time for that review and others to get posted and make the rounds. A lot of other lovely reviewer folks have given their time to read a rookie author and post reviews, and of course my interactions on Twitter have been invaluable.
DHR: What was the process like when researching and inquiring for agents?
LH: It’s a bewildering process, as other writers know! Looking for the right fit, who represents the genre you’re writing in, is accepting new writers, and who has the connections to get your material in front of publishers, is time consuming work. I researched a number of them, looked at who was currently in their “stable” of authors, and what they indicated they were most interested in reading. The other part of the equation is patience, which I have a hard time with. Everything in writing and publishing moves at glacial speed – it can take an agent months to get around to reading your manuscript and responding. I probably had an easier time than most, because I had my mom coaching me, and her agent actually agreed to look at my work, which I know was a huge leg up. I had no promises about his acceptance, and I still had to go through the normal query process, but he eventually took me on as his agent, which was a big deal for me.
DHR: That’s so cool that you and your mom have the same agent! You were on an episode of Ink Heist – A Podcast for Readers of Dark Fiction. Did Shane and Rich approach you for that?
LH: Yes, Shane did – I definitely had a “who, me?” moment when he tweeted me about it. He had very kindly agreed to read and review Whispers, and I was kind of waiting with baited breath to see what he thought. He ended up enjoying it and asking me to be on the show. I was their third guest and nervous as all get out, but talking to Rich and Shane is like hanging in a bar with friends. They do such a great job with that podcast.
DHR: I couldn’t agree more, and I think you did a lovely job. Have you been on other podcasts?
LH: Yes, I’ve been on one other – Boneheads Weekly is a long-running podcast run by some wonderful guys based in my hometown. We were members of the same Facebook group, and after Whispers was released they had me on to talk about it. It was a funny situation, because basically I was invited into the basement of some guys I met online, which is a nice set up for a horror story on its own. They’re awesome though, incredibly knowledgeable about books, movies, graphic novels, everything. Their shows are a lot of fun.
DHR: Oh wow, ha-ha. You have an infant, congrats by the way! When do you have time to write?
LH: My writing time is pretty strictly scheduled – most weeknights I try to write between 9 and 10, and on weekends I write during my son’s naps. It’s made me a lot more organized about my time!
DHR: That’s a nice segue into my next question. Do you have a specific spot you have to write in or are you a mobile writer?
LH: I tend to write on the couch in our living room. I don’t have problems finding a new location if we’re on vacation, but if I’m home I prefer to be there. I have trouble working in public places because of the noise factor – I can be high maintenance about silence, as my husband can attest.
DHR: Looking back on Whispers, how do you feel about it as a story?
LH: It’s interesting because by the time JournalStone signed me on, I set it aside for a long time and worked on other projects. I worried, as we approached publication that it wasn’t representative of my best work, and it seemed like all I could see were problems during the editing process. Having the story seen through the eyes of readers has brought me back to an appreciation of it. Hearing from people about the parts that resonated with them helps me to see it in new ways every day, and curbs my instinct to beat up on my own work. At this point I feel proud of it, and of my characters.
DHR: That’s awesome. I know you currently reside in Kentucky. Did you grow up there? If so, how did it influence your work?
LH: Yes, I grew up here – I moved away to go to college, but came home as so many of us do. I imagine it influenced my work most in the types of characters I created – living in California and Tennessee, I could detect a lot of regional differences in how people interacted with one another, and I’d say it comes across unconsciously in my characters. That, and all those weird regional dialect things I never realized were weird…
DHR: Not sure if you’ve ever been in my old stomping grounds, but you’d flip with the New England accents. Whispers is a stand-alone. Will the next also be one?
LH: That might depend on who picks up what work and when – my second book that I’m revising now is the first in a series that has three completed manuscripts, and half of a fourth. I ended up creating a world I didn’t want to leave, so it became a continuing series, with respect to the characters and the town, though each book is kind of like its own episode. The first one is titled Silent Key, and definitely involves ghosts again, though the character dynamics are pretty different. My protagonist is an NYPD gang squad specialist named Cam Ambrose who moves to her uncle’s ranch in Texas after her husband’s brutal murder. The other completed manuscript I have is for a standalone thriller, but who knows if any of them will ever see the light of day? I sure hope so!
DHR: Oh, wow! I really hope so too! Do you have any desire to explore Sci-Fi or dark fantasy?
LH: Not at the moment, because I don’t read enough of either to do the genre justice.
DHR: That’s fair. Who do you look up to and why?
LH: Hmm, I’m blanking on specific people – it might be more of a mindset. People that have the ability to give zero fucks, I think. I wish I could just get stuff done without giving anyone else headspace, but I’m not good at it – so the kinds of women I see who are perfectly comfortable doing what’s right for them, and not worrying about six degrees of anxiety over it, those are the ones I’d like to emulate.
DHR: You mentioned how your mother is a writer. How was that like growing up?
LH: Ha – there were pros and cons, for sure. It was cool to read all these books with my mom’s name on them, and there were cassette tape audio versions of at least one, which was neat. I grew up with the knowledge that this was something you could really do. The evidence was right in front of me. It meant I was held to higher standards from a young age in my writing, so I’m sure I benefited from that aspect. With writing as a career, and especially back then, things were always feast or famine, so it could get hairy sometimes. I don’t want to give the impression we weren’t taken care of – we always were, but the rest of my family seemed to have a higher threshold for uncertainty.
DHR: What does she think of your stories?
LH: She’s very proud – she was excited when she first learned I was working on a novel. She’s always been my first beta reader, and she beats the hell out of me on notes, but it’s always worth it.
DHR: I’m so envious of you in that position. What genre does she typically write in?
LH: Her first four were sci-fi, and the rest have been mystery/thrillers.
DHR: Does she have a story or stories that’s inspired your work?
LH: I don’t know if it inspired my work, exactly, but I always loved Satan’s Lambs. It was my favorite, plus I got a kick out of all the conservative backlash for the title.
DHR: Yea, I can imagine. I do love that title, though. I just googled the book and the cover has the same tone as Whispers, neat! Can you see yourself shaping your little boy into a writer one day?
LH: Not shaping him into it, no – if he should choose to try it, I’ll give him all my support, but I want him to do what makes him happy, always. I’m thrilled that he’s so into being read to, and will often open books and “read” them to himself or his class, so I hope he’ll be a reader. But whoever he chooses to be, I’m his cheerleader 100 percent.
DHR: Spoken like a great parent. You’ve mentioned how short stories aren’t really your forte. Could you expand on that?
LH: There is such an art to being able to craft a story arc with limited pages. Maybe it’s about stretching myself, and I haven’t been brave enough to try it, but it always seems like the ideas I get for stories involve a much longer investment. I say that now, but maybe tomorrow something cool will pop into my head.
DHR: Along the lines of something popping in your head, has a dream been the catalyst to any of your stories?
LH: Definitely for scenes in some of my books. Silent Key has a scene based on a vivid nightmare I had. When I was describing it to my friend, it creeped her out, so I decided I had to use it.
DHR: I need to read that scene as soon as possible, please, he-he. What kind of music do you tend to gravitate towards?
LH: My husband would call it depressing singer songwriter – I like a lot of ballad, low-key one-offs. Mood music, plus some high octane stuff for workouts, or rocking out in my car like I think I’m cool.
DHR: You’re super cool. While we’re on the subject, do you write or read while listening to music?
LH: Nope, can’t do it, too distracting. Sometimes I’ll listen to instrumental horror soundtracks while I’m working – Hellraiser, Candyman, It Follows – but most of the time I need total silence. I’m a joy to live with, let me tell you.
DHR: It’s better than being a loud pain in the ass like myself, I’m sure. What are your goals for the foreseeable future?
LH: I’d love to get Silent Key polished and picked up for an early 2020 release, hopefully with the thriller not far behind. I have an outline for a novella I’ll work on after that, and if there’s much interest in Silent Key I’ll be polishing, or, more likely working massive rewrites, on the sequels.
DHR: Fingers crossed! Pertaining to writing goals, do you have a bucket list?
LH: I’d love to have my work included in a Night Worms package, to have it read by John F.D. Taff or Johnathan Janz or Hunter Shea, or Caitlyn Starling or Catherine Cavendish or Josh Malerman or, well, you know, any one of these incredible horror big shots we’re so blessed to have. I’d like to get accepted to the Kentucky Book Fair, and actually see my books on the shelves in bookstores. And I want to make it to Scares that Care next year!
DHR: Those are all fantastic goals and I don’t see why they wouldn’t become a reality! I also hope to go to Scares that Care, but we’ll see how that goes. Is there anyone you would like to make a shout out to?
LH: I’m almost afraid to, because there are so many and I’m bound to forget someone, but definitely Sian Plummer and Lilyn George at Sci-Fi & Scary, Shane and Rich at Ink Heist, John Lynch, Michael Patrick Hicks, Shanannigans at Reads and Reels, Joe Lewis, James Thomas, and Chad Jennings at Bonehead Weekly. I mean, can I just shout out the whole horror family?
DHR: Absolutely! Laurel, thank you for letting me interview you! You’re always a pleasure to talk with.
You can follow Laurel on: Main Website: laurelhightower.com Twitter: @hightowerlaurel Instagram: /laurelhightower Facebook: /laurelhightowerky
Rose McFarland is, to put it bluntly, a badass. As a S.W.A.T. sniper, she knows how to use weapons and, most importantly, when to use them. But after her latest job, things start to go wrong, putting not just her at risk, not just her family, but also the whole world. She must confront her past, while dealing with her present to make sure they get out alive…no matter what.
Whispers in the Dark is Laurel Hightower’s first novel, which honestly, I was really surprised at. Because holy shit, this is good.
Right from the start, the tension in the novel is high, as Rose waits for the opportunity to take a shot at Charlie Akers, at a standoff that will change everything. Rose is everything we’ve come to love about these strong female characters, but there’s so much more to her than that. She’s not a loner; she has a family, and men she loves that love her too; as well as a cast of characters she cares deeply about, that we soon do too.
It’s hard to convey just how good this book is. There were moments I had to put my Kindle down and just…take a step back, absorbing the character development and the horror tied in so tightly throughout. The moments meant to scare really do creep in under your skin, and the moments where we get to see Rose living a happy family life make the horror all the more poignant.
One thing I really liked about it were the men in Rose’s life. The way they’re handled feels realistic and her family is a nice, refreshing portrayal of blended families. And the men really do look out for her, though at the end of the day, they all understand she’s stronger than any of them, and in the best position to protect herself and her family.
There’s no alpha male bull here, no damsel in distress or guys who feel the need to make her into one. They understand her, and aren’t constantly trying to swoop in and save her.
In the background to all this are the Whispers. The strange force that in Rose’s childhood signaled the coming of ghosts. The Whispers and the threat they present is built up throughout, as Rose tries to work out exactly what is happening, and how it ties into her and her family.
The writing is strong, the events unnerving, the characters deep, flawed, and oh so relatable.
This is horror of the highest order, with a strong, formidable main character, not a final girl, but a female horror protagonist for the 21st century. The kind of Gifted Girl many of us seem to have waited a long time for. Rose and the Whispers will get into your head and won’t let go, and I can’t think of anything more you’d want from a horror novel.
Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Thank you for your time, Ross. Your horror card game looks fantastic. Mind giving us the bullet points?
Ross Glover (RG): Sure! 1 Survives is a fast-paced game of strategy and skill. It’s every player for themselves, as you try to find an alternative way to escape the island while evading and fending off the killer’s attacks.
The backstory is that a high school boat trip goes gravely wrong when the engine dies, and the vessel drifts onto the rocky shoreline of a seemingly deserted island. The boat is damaged in the collision and the group must search for a means to repair the craft or an alternative way to escape the island.
However, all is not as it seems, as the island has one lone inhabitant, who has removed themselves from society to avoid the temptation of taking further lives of innocent victims. The disturbance has reignited a bloodlust and every soul who remains on the island is their next potential victim…
Of course, sending the killer after one of your ‘friends’ might just increase your chances of success.
Game play is a mix of set collection and ‘take that’ as you attempt to find a way to survive while thwarting your ‘school friends’ efforts to escape.
To play the game each player choses a character card and places this together with their starting location card face up in front of them.
7 cards are dealt to each player from the deck and place the remaining cards down as the ‘draw deck’.
Players then take turns to move the killer (attacking players in those locations), move themselves to other locations or collect cards to escape the island or to kill the serial killer.
If you are attacked by the killer, you must defend yourself by playing a weapon card (fight), move to another location (run) or die an unimaginable death.
If you can fight off the killer or avoid their attack by running to another location, you do not replace the card you were forced to play, reducing the number of cards in your hand, making it harder to collect the components to escape or survive other attacks.
A number of special cards can help you win the game including:
Sacrifice – push a friend in front of the killer’s blade while you run in the opposite direction. Jump scare – without warning the killer lunges from the shadows, attacking an unsuspecting player. Frenzy – the killer loses all control, attacking all players in one location.
You can escape the island by collecting parts to repair the boat or to signal for help, or if you can find what is needed to make a Molotov cocktail, perhaps you can fight back and put an end to this madness.
DHR: You had me at serial killer. Seriously, picturing me and a few writer friends of mine playing this game sounds amazing! You’re getting your funding through Kickstarter. It’s only running through the end of October. How has the campaign been going?
RG: We have had a strong start and after 3 days we are 25% funded. Of course we are hoping we carry this momentum through the campaign and see the game funded. That would be amazing!
DHR: Sounds like a good start. What is the game competition like? How about within horror-based games?
RG: The board game industry has exploded in the last few years and is continuing to grow. Kickstarter is a little busy with various game types, however the horror genre isn’t too crowded, and in particular one of the reasons for creating the game was that we weren’t aware of any horror/slasher card games that were easy to learn, quick to play and you could carry with you easily, say to take on a trip or holiday.
DHR: Now that you mention it, I can’t think of any others. What is the genesis for this game? Who wanted to create it and who helped make that idea come to fruition?
RG: So the idea came about when we were packing a bag for a vacation. We take card games with us to play usually after dinner. My son is a huge horror fan and I asked him if he was aware of any card games that we might be able to pick up to play, he said ‘no’ and that for the moment, was the end of it …. until we had a 6 hour wait for our flight home. At that point the suggestion to try and make a horror /slasher card game came to life. In a few hours we had the first playable version, made of cut up drawing paper for some hand written cards. Of course it had some kinks but it showed some promise. 12 months later and we are now on Kickstarter!
DHR: That’s really interesting that this all came down to there not being a horror game for your son to play, so you made one. I love that! Is this the first game you’ve made?
RG: This is our first venture into game design, and one of the great things has been learning the process and getting to know the communities that we have found in both gaming and horror. Really inclusive and supportive, positive and helpful.
DHR: Couldn’t agree more about the horror community. So, why a card game?
RG: The games we play when we go on holiday are usually card games, games like Uno or timeline. As mentioned we wanted to make this something you could take with you easily and keeping this a card game, rather than a board game with more components was the way to do it. It also means that the rules are kept simple and the game is easy to pick up and play.
DHR: That makes sense. Are there any expansion packs in the works?
RG: Throughout testing there have been lots of suggestions for additions, such as adding weather effects that impact locations, more special cards or additional locations. There could be an expansion that delivers some of these ideas, but of course our focus for the moment is to get the core game up and running via our Kickstarter campaign.
DHR: The logo for this game is pretty neat. On the package it reads: “Ages 9 up”. I take it the kills aren’t too graphic. Why did you choose that demographic, as opposed to an 18+ crowd?
RG: So there needs to be some parental discretion when it comes to playing 1 Survives. The theme is mature and some of the cards depict blood splatter and dark scenes, however there is nothing overly graphic in the cards themselves. However, part of the fun of this game is the narrative that we have seen players add as they play, story telling each of the killer’s moves, that is where the graphic imagery can be ‘part’ of the game, but the players are in control of that.
If this kickstarter is successful one option we have considered is producing a “Not Safe For Work” version where the images in the cards is updated with more of 18+ rated theme.
We’ve had a range of younger players play 1 Survives from 9 upwards and they have certainly enjoyed the game. The 9+ came about as this was the youngest “play tester” who had fun playing the game, however, with games safety rules within the US, we may increase this to 12+ in the final text.
DHR: I’d love to see the “Not Safe For Work” version. Also on the package, it reads “2-6 players”, how did you land on that number?
RG: Initially we had up to 8 players, however through play testing we found that the games lasted longer than intended with 8 players and reduced the chances of escape. It just didn’t feel balanced, so we tested with a max of 6 playing and this seems to work well. You do need at least 2 players to play and it plays best with between 3 and 6 players. It can be a really good party game to play with friends. Perhaps we could look at adding more characters in an expansion!
DHR: Right on. Playtime is 10 to 25 minutes long. That seems like a satisfying time frame. When you and friends tested out the game, what has been the average playtime?
RG: Number of players can impact this, and generally the higher the number the longer the game. However the average is in the middle of that range, but I’d also say that depending on the cards dealt out, the game can change considerably. It can mean a game ends quickly (possibly under 10 minutes) but it would be really unusual for this to go beyond 25 minutes, especially if you are familiar with the game play.
DHR: Was the location of this game, an island, based on a real one?
RG: That would have been great, imagine actually visiting this island! It is however purely fictional, when designing the game we had a camp crystal lake setting in mind, but I’d thought of the abandoned island in New York (North Brother Island) which was part of the inspiration. Not so far from civilization, but far enough that someone could live their un-noticed. The individual locations were those that would work as escape points, but also some classic slasher locations, such as a campground.
DHR: The folded pamphlet (covered by a map of the island and synopsis of the game on one side and the breakdown of the rules and cards on the other) is visually pleasing and easy to follow along. How long did it take to design all of that? How many drafts did you go through before landing on the final product?
RG: The original set of rules was typed up in a word doc, and we worked on that basis as we continued to refine the game balance and game play. These have been updated countless times as the game evolved and as we tested players understanding of the rules themselves. The rules and graphic design are the work of a friend (Windmill Graphics) after we spoke about what we were doing, and provided an outline of what we had in mind. We love the job that Michael has done on the box and the rules!
DHR: The artwork on the cards is also pretty great. Did you hire an artist for that?
RG: We have had two artist work on our cards and we think these are great and are in a style that really fits the theme. We had taken time to share different styles with our play testers and on social media to gauge reaction. The artist ‘paintbrush’ effect was the winner, which we were happy with as it was also our favorite.
DHR: Do we ever see what the serial killer looks like?
RG: The most you see is the killer’s partial or full silhouette. There are a couple for reasons for this. It obviously leaves the player to imagine the killer in the way that fills their fear the most. In addition, and it doesn’t give too much away to say, perhaps the island was uninhabited and you brought the killer with you!
DHR: Are you fascinated by serial killers? If so, mind naming a few you find most captivating?
RG: This is more Ryan’s (my son) fascination. Jack the Ripper (as unsolved), Jeffery Dahmer (The difference of knowing right from wrong, or just not caring) and Dennis Rader (Delusions of grandeur to a degree where he saw himself as an enlightened figure).
DHR: Your son has good taste. Ever watch the Netflix original series, Mind Hunter?
RG: It is on the list, but it’s not something that we’ve seen yet. I take it this is one you would recommend?!
DHR: If you like serial killers (strictly speaking in the psychology-focused sense) then absolutely YES! My wife and I are big fans! I have the book as well, but haven’t read it yet. Is there anything else you would like to inform people about?
RG: If anyone is visiting Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando during the month, watch out for someone wearing a 1 Survives t-shirt and say “Hi”.
DHR: Oh, neat! If one of our readers does that, I’d certainly love to know! Is there anyone you would like to make a shout out to?
RG: If any of the horror superstars out there (Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, Doug Bradley, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, John Carpenter or Jason Blum) would like to back our game or our social media, that would of course be bloody awesome 😊!
DHR: Ha, seriously! Ross, thanks again for letting me interview you. I hope to play 1 Survives, eventually. Best of luck on the Kickstarter campaign!
RG: Thank you for taking the time out to interview us!
DHR: My pleasure.
You can follow 1 Survives on:
Kickstarter Campaign:Kickstarter Campaign Main Website: 1survives.com Twitter: @1survives Instagram: /1survives