Sep 012009

Hi everyone,I wanted to give you an update of what’s going on, and tell you a little bit about my recent trip to Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

First off, I’m about a hundred and twenty to a hundred and forty pages away from finishing the new book. Still looking to finish it up in (late) September, because as I near the end of a project I start writing faster. I’m doing my ten p.m. to six a.m. schedule right now.

I’ve gotten a few questions I’d like to answer. One was about why I don’t do a book about The Lady from Boy’s Life. I actually did start on a book about her before I wrote Boy’s Life, but for one reason or another I wasn’t satisfied with it. I got about two hundred pages in. It just wasn’t coming to life for me, though, so I put it aside. It did have some pretty interesting bits: a swamp snake that travelled with her as her companion and hated all other humans due to the murders of her “children,” a town of half-submerged antebellum mansions, a shadowy New Orleans maskmaker who created masks for criminals and murderers that actually became the person’s new face…but I couldn’t make it go. I think I was conflicted about whether to portray “voodoo” as fantasy or reality.

Another question is why I didn’t—or wouldn’t—do a sequel to The Wolf’s Hour. I actually had planned on doing a sequel, or more than one sequel, but Irwyn Appelbaum, who was the honcho at Pocket Books at the time, shot the idea down. I usually don’t listen to honchos, but he said he thought my primary audience was women, and he didn’t think women liked “war books.”

Hmmm. I wonder now if he ever read the book?

But anyway, I was off on the next book at the time, so I didn’t worry about it. As for doing a sequel now, it might be interesting, but my plate is pretty full. If I was to do that, it would be a long way down the road, and for the present, the Matthew series suits my need to do action/adventure.

Speaking of New Orleans, it was a great trip. I spoke to a gathering of parents on Monday night, and then on Tuesday spoke to the students in two sessions. Everybody there was fantastic, I think I was able to connect with the guys (you can make up your own mind on that if and when you see the videos) and it was just really fun.

One thing: if you see the video of the first session, you will see terror leap into my eyes at the beginning of the question-and-answer session when I realize I can’t hear the questions being asked. Yow. So I was able to take the microphone down to the floor and both hear the questions and answer them more “face-to-face.” You always think what hideous thing might happen when you’re in front of an audience like that, and 8th to 12th grade young men are a tough audience. I had the mental image of tumbling down the steps leading from the stage to the floor, either to land on my face or on my backside, which would’ve made a memorable trip and a great YouTube vid.

The gentleman who serves Jesuit High School as the Director of Alumni, Mat Grau, posed two questions to me a couple of weeks before I left Birmingham for New Orleans. They were “Who is Cory today?” and “What is he becoming aware of?”

So, as you’ll see and hear in the videos, I wrote Cory a letter and asked him, and he was kind enough to write me back.

He wrote:


Hello Rick,I hope everything’s good with you. The family’s doing well. My daughter is really getting up there now. Twenty years old! Can you believe it?

Well, I’m glad you haven’t forgotten your old bud. We do go back a ways, don’t we? I haven’t been to Zephyr for a long time. The interstate has a way of speeding you right past the turnoff, but that’s okay because I always know that when I’m ready to go back to Zephyr, Zephyr is always ready to welcome me.

I’ve given some thought to the questions you asked.

I am both the same as I was and different too. Aren’t we all? It seems to me that this is part of the challenge of life—to try very hard to keep some inner part of yourself flowing pure and clear and strong, while the world throws everything it can at you to muddy your river.

I have to admit—my river has known some turbulence. It has been tested over rough rocks and daunting falls. It has at some places in its journey been darkened by silt and sullied by garbage. But I have tried—and still try—my best to keep it flowing strong toward the sea of its ultimate destination.

Wherever that may be.

I have a road I walk. I call it “my road.” I particularly enjoy it in late August, in the fading blue light of summer, betwixt and between the sun and the moon. I think of many things on this road. I remember, I dream, I imagine. I give thanks for what I have, and what I have to look forward to.

Often on this road the cicadas of late summer sing in the trees. I never fail to hear them say, from either side of that long and twisting road—


I know where I’ve been. I don’t know exactly where I’m going. But I do believe that when I get there, it will be a wonderful place.

Thank you for your letter. Take care.

Your friend,

P.S. You’ll never believe what I found the other day on eBay. I bought it. It’s not in style anymore, but it sure is a pretty bike.

I wonder if it might be the very same one. And if it would remember me, and wake up like a lamp turning on in the dark.

Now that would really be magic, wouldn’t it?

As always, thank you for your readership, your comments, and your interest in my work. Like I said, I hope to be finished with the new book soon, and in this household that will be a very happy day.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon

Webmaster’s note: We hope to have audio and video of the Big J Read events posted here within the next week or so.


Robert McCammon update – July 2009

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Jul 272009

Hi everyone,

I wanted to check in and again say thank you for your comments and observations. I believe I mentioned to you guys last time about how much I value your presence, so I thought this time I would talk a little bit about the new book and some other things coming up.

First off, I’m on track to finish the new book in September, and I’m really looking forward to that because it’s so intense. I’m into my late night work now, staying up until five or so in the morning most days. If you don’t know, the book is about a rock band on their final tour across the Southwest who decide to end their “run” together by writing a communal last song. I can’t say the name of the book because it’s also the name of the band, and I don’t want that getting around just yet.

It has a strong supernatural element, but I can’t really say it’s “horror,” unless you consider the horrific things people can do to each other. I’ve been interested in music pretty much all my life, particularly in the retro keyboards and combo organs of the ’60s, but this book is set in 2008 and hopefully does a good job of illuminating the day-to-day (or gig-to-gig) trials and tribulations of working bands. One thing, the language is very rough, really a lot rougher than I’m used to writing, but I think it’s true to life.

I’m actually writing some “songs” for this, which is also something I’ve never done. Well…lyrics for songs, that is. Writing in the voices of people in their mid-twenties instead of my real age has been a challenge, too. But, hey, a writer has to be something of an actor, too, so I put that down to necessary stagecraft.

Another interesting thing is that I’ve needed to come up with a lot of fictitious names for bands, though I do reference many real ones. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I had come up with a cool band name nobody else could’ve conjured, and then I go to Google to check it and…WHAM!…there’s a real band with that name.

Anyway, a September finish for that one. Here’s something I’ll throw at you from the book: Stone Church. (Not the title nor the name of any band in the book).

As I understand it, there’s a January pub date for Mister Slaughter from Subterranean Press. The artwork that’s going to be in there is awesome. Bill Schafer of SP gave me the opportunity to suggest one more piece of art than was initially slated to be in there, and I hope I picked out a good one. (At least it sure does look good to me!)

I’ll have to spill the hotspur peas and tell you that Matthew does survive Mister Slaughter, though I can tell you it’s a close-run item. In fact, he survives it to appear again in the following book (title can’t be revealed yet) that begins in New York and goes to one of the Bermuda islands. I’m currently researching the fascinating subject of underwater diving suits, diving bells and such in the early 1700s. Did you know that somebody had already built a working submarine by 1620? It was powered by twelve oarsmen, the oars sealed up against the inrush of water by tight leather sleeves.

I’ll be starting this book probably in February. After that, I’m planning on doing another more modern book (well, set in the 1930s) that takes place in New Orleans. Then back to Matthew again.

So, I just wanted you guys to know what’s coming up. I appreciate so much the comments and well-wishes, they are very much needed sometimes around four in the morning.

Thanks for checking in with the website!

Robert McCammon
July 27, 2009


Robert McCammon update – October 2008

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Oct 302008

Hi all. I wanted to report on what was happening with Mister Slaughter. Unfortunately we don’t have a publisher yet, but never fear, we’re still pushing ahead. The deal is that I just didn’t think Pocket did a very good job with [The Queen of Bedlam]. There was no promotion at all (well, there was a small ad in the New York Times Review of Books, but that was because the publisher at Pocket liked the cover) and I just can’t throw Mister Slaughter into the fire.

If you guys want to know where I am mentally, just read the commentaries in the new Pocket editions of Boy’s Life and Gone South. I’m not saying you should buy them if you already have them, but take a look at those commentaries. They tell a harsh story, but it’s where I am.

Due to the economy, publishers are buying fewer books and seem to be reluctant to put money in promotion or author’s tours. If the book doesn’t make X amount of profits, whoever championed that particular book gets his or her head cut off, because of the corporate structure of the publishing world. And in my particular case and the case of Pocket, I honestly think they have no idea how to promote the Matthew Corbett series. Really…I don’t think they understand the books or see the potential in Matthew’s story.

Wouldn’t be the first time, guys. Recall that I had to fight to keep Boy’s Life from being turned into a run-of-the-mill mystery piece, and that was only one of many fights I had with Pocket over the years.

So here I am again, similar to when I took Speaks the Nightbird home and thought I was done with publishing. This time, though, I have lots of options and I’m determined to continue Matthew’s story to the finish. The problem is that sorting all this out is going to take some time, and I want to be careful that I find the right people in the business who’ll help me continue on.

I had hoped that Mister Slaughter would be out in October of 2009, but it probably won’t be. I’m cleaning house, and what I have to do may add several more months to the schedule.

One of the elements of Mister Slaughter is that Matthew is really beaten and bruised by Tyranthus Slaughter during the course of the book, but he never gives up. The book is about not quitting in the face of adversity, as a matter of fact. Matthew is not a quitter. He’s a good example for me to follow, and that’s what I intend to do.

Thank you for hanging in with me, and hopefully within a month or so, I’ll have some better news.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon
October 30, 2008


Robert McCammon update – September 2008

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Sep 152008

Hi everybody,

I wanted to check in and tell you how much I appreciate your comments. I guess it would be a cliche to say that your positive response to my work is one of the major things that keep me going, but this doesn’t make it any less true. A writer very often feels like he or she is working in the dark, so any candle of response is much appreciated. Again, thank you for taking the time to write in and let me know.

I finished Mister Slaughter in June, but I’m still waiting to see exactly when the book’s going to be published. My agent and publisher are “in talks” (another cliche, I suppose, but again true) and I’m hoping to find out something within the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I wanted to tell you what the future holds. Knowing from experience that nothing can be written in stone, my plan is to write a contemporary novel next, before I do the next Matthew Corbett book. It’s about a rock band and is set in the summer of 2008, but that’s about all I can say right now.

The Matthew Corbett books are a real challenge to do, with putting together the story and the research, and I’ve decided it would be fun (?) to do this book set in the here-and-now before getting started on the next Matthew story.

As a matter of fact, I hope to do another contemporary book after I finish the next Matthew book as well. I’m planning on doing seven more Matthew books, so it looks like I’m not going to be sitting around in retirement like I thought I was going to be a few years ago, so in that instance my crystal ball was severely cracked. And I’m glad it was, because I really am enjoying writing the Matthew series.

So…that’s basically where I’m going for the next few years. At one point I’d hoped to be able to do a Matthew book every year, but they’re too complicated for that and I do need some downtime between them. This idea about the band has really reached out and grabbed me, so we’ll see. This is kinda scary for me because I haven’t written a contemporary book for a good long while (as in many years).

Again, thanks for your comments and your participation on the website. Thanks for all your well-wishes and your appreciation of my work, and I’ll talk to you again further along the way.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon
September 15, 2008


Robert McCammon update: December 1998

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Dec 161998

In December 1998, Robert R. McCammon wrote this letter for the old Lights Out! web site to let his fans know what he’d been doing for the previous six years.

First off, thanks for your interest in the site and in what I have done and am doing. I hope I can answer some of your questions.

For a long time I’ve wanted to write and let everyone here know what’s been going on, but I think you may understand why I haven’t kept in touch.

I’ve been reading posts here and there concerning what has happened to me. One person heard I was sick and dying, and another advanced the belief that I had inherited a major estate from a relative and was kept too busy running it to write anymore. This particular post ended with the statement that “this is what happens when writing is no more than a hobby”.

Okay. Here’s the tale, if anyone wants to hear it.

When I finished Gone South a few years back, I wanted to take some time off to be a fulltime father to our little girl, who was at that time a newborn. So I did.

Then I needed to think about what I had written and what I wanted to do next. Since about the time of writing MINE, I’d been moving out of the horror genre. I enjoyed working in that area for many years, but there came a time when it just wasn’t very appealing to me anymore. Bear in mind that my first book (Baal) was published when I was 25 years old. I was a kid, and I thought like a kid. But as I grew older I wanted to move beyond the horror genre, for the simple reason that I didn’t feel challenged by it. Also, the horror genre became to me like a box. It’s very limiting, in my estimation. Others may think differently, and more power to them.

After Gone South, I wondered what I could do that would be both challenging and would make me push myself as a writer. I’ve always enjoyed history, so I decided to strike out in the direction of the historical novel.

Well, I soon found out that with the research involved, the historical novel is much more difficult to do than what I’d been writing before. After two years, I finished a (very long) book set in colonial Carolina in 1699, called Speaks the Nightbird. It’s about a witchcraft trial and might be called a mystery but is not supernatural. But, anyway, I wanted it to be as historically correct as possible, right down to the language.

At this point I decided also to start fresh with a new publisher.

To make this long story shorter: I ran into (collided with, actually) an editor who wanted me to change the book to make it into (my opinion here, of course) an historical romance. I will be kind to the memory of this person. We did not see eye-to-eye on anything. I simply could not make the changes I was asked to make. The book is by no means perfect and does need to be edited, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

Well, I was kind of stuck at this point because no one else wanted Nightbird. I was told that publishers were expecting a certain kind of book from me, and this wasn’t it.

My choice was to remove the book from consideration. Then I had to get back up on the horse and try again. I had another story in mind, about a Russian theater troupe in World War II, and I began my research. Again, this was a hard road to travel.

I found myself snakebit, due to the problems I’d had with the aforementioned editor. Never in my career had I ever encountered a person or situation like this, and I had trouble coming back from the experience.

The truth is that I was afraid to work, for fear of another rejection. I did keep at the new book, called The Village, but only a few pages at the time. I got very depressed during this time period, and I wondered if I ought to just quit. I was wondering what else I could do, and realized I couldn’t do very much else.

I can tell you what depression is. It’s your mind trying to shut off pain. Unfortunately, it also shuts off pleasure. So for many months there I was a hermit in the house, trying to work a little bit, trying not to let anyone outside the family know how bad off I was, and trying to figure out what my role in the world would be if not as a writer.

I kept at it. I will not try to tell anyone how I emerged from this state of mind, or what I learned while I was in this sunless realm. This is for me alone.

But: I did find joy in life again, and I did finish The Village after three years. Just last week, as a matter of fact.

Now, this is not quite a happy ending because I don’t know who’s going to publish the new book, or if it will be published at all. I don’t know what will happen to Speaks the Nightbird, though I do hope it will someday be published. I don’t know if these books will be published under my name or under a pen name.

So, I guess the next chapter is about to be written. What will happen in it, I have no idea.

Thanks to all for your comments and questions. Thanks for keeping up and for reading my work. And also many, many thanks to Hunter for maintaining the LIGHTS OUT site and for being a great friend.

Robert McCammon

December 16, 1998