I first became aware of Cameron Roubique last year. Someone on Twitter had posted the eye-catching cover of Kill River, with its doomed swimwear-clad teens floating into the mouth of a giant, leering skull. I had to have it, and thankfully the book was exactly what I hoped it would be; an unashamed homage to the golden age of the slasher movie. There’s a surprising dearth of books based on that particular era of horror, something Cameron seems single-handedly determined to rectify. He followed Kill River with the old-school thrills of Disco Deathtrap and Kill River 2, and there’s more to come. Hopefully much more!
Cameron was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions about his past, present and future. I hope you enjoy reading the interview, and if you do please support him by purchasing an individually hand-bound book from his Amazon page.
Follow Cameron on Twitter or Instagram and check out his websites here and here for updates.
Q. Let’s start at the beginning. What was your first exposure to slasher movies, and have you always been a horror fan?
A. I used to always see all those slasher VHS covers at video rental places when I was little, but my parents didn’t really care for slasher movies so I never got to watch them. Then as a birthday present for when I turned 8, my dad taped Child’s Play off cable TV and my family and I watched it. But I can’t really remember a time that I didn’t like horror. My dad read a lot of Stephen King and other horror books and I was always fascinated by those and anything horror. I’d flip through the TV channels and if I saw anything even slightly spooky, I had to stop and see what it was.
Q. Moving on to books, when did you discover you enjoyed reading horror?
A. I’ve always loved horror so I checked out any spooky little kids books when I was little. I remember checking out a scary picture book called The Ghost-Eye Tree a lot from the library. Then R.L. Stine came along when I was about six and I became addicted to my monthly Goosebumpsbooks. I finally read ‘Salem’s Lot at age nine, those creepy vampire kids stuck with me. Goosebumps was getting ridiculous at that point, The Blob That Ate Everyone was my jump-the-shark moment, and I pretty much only read adult horror books after that.
Q. When and why did you decide to become a writer?
A. I wrote little short stories starting around age nine, but it was never anything serious. I got away from writing and played in a pop-punk band for a while in high school. After that though, I wanted to make 80s slasher movies, Kill River was one idea I’d had since I was 17. I couldn’t really afford to make movies though, and I couldn’t raise money worth a damn either. All I had to offer were the stories in my head, so I decided to get back into writing in 2012. I had so much fun writing Kill River though, it really changed my whole outlook on books and film and storytelling in general. Filmmaking was so restrictive and tied to money, but writing Kill River was just pure storytelling freedom. I put all my creative efforts from then on into writing and I’ve never looked back.
Q. Slasher movies have traditionally been critically reviled by the mainstream. Common criticisms include paper-thin characters and the repetitive nature of the plots. How do you tackle these “problems” when writing your own slasher stories, or do you choose to embrace them?
A. Actually I like the familiar structure of slasher stories. As a writer, it allows me to focus more on the characters, and really challenges me to come up with a creative setting and killer. As an audience member, you kind of know what to expect so you can just sit back and stop trying to figure out the plot, and you can enjoy whatever interesting take the writer has come up with. In my books I always try to make characters that you sympathize with, and put them in a really fun and unusual place for the setting. I do try to stick to your basic slasher structure though so my readers—even though we’re sadly far away from the 80s now—will feel at home.
Q. Your first book Kill River had pleasing echoes of early 80s slasher movies like Sleepaway Camp and The Burning. Were there any films or books that specifically influenced you?
A. You hit the nail on the head. Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th Part 2 probably had the more influence on Kill River than any other slasher movies. I really wanted it to be dripping with the whole summer camp and out-in-the-woods vibe that those two movies have. Other movies have had major influences on my other books though. Disco Deathtrap is inspired by Prom Night, Curtains, and The Burning. Kill River 2 has a more suburban feel and builds on the first book, while also being inspired by parts of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (my favorite NOES sequel).
Q. It’s quite unusual for slasher movies to feature age-appropriate campers, probably because it eliminates the possibility of sex scenes. Often they focus on the consellors, or in the case of The Burning, teenage campers who look like they’re in their thirties (I’m thinking of you, Glazer.) So why did you decide to make the characters in Kill River so young?
A. Again, you know your slasher movies, haha. I love The Burning, but my only problems with it are all the day-for-night shots, and the kids looking as old as the counselors. I wanted the kids in Kill River to be old enough to have that rebellious attitude, but still be young enough to panic and not know what to do about the strange situation they found themselves in. Also (I don’t know this for a fact) but I think older kids more typically spend their summers working crappy job and hanging out with friends, not going to summer camp.
Glazer, the oldest high-schooler since John Travolta in Grease (The Burning, 1981)
Q. 80s nostalgia plays a big part in your books. I presume you are a child of the 1980s?
A. I was born in 1986, so technically I’m a just-barely child of the 80s, but I’m more in touch with the childhood culture of the early 90s. 90s Nickelodeon shows like The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Salute Your Shorts have also influenced my writing.
Q. The abandoned water park in Kill River is a terrific location. What made you decide to choose it?
A. I live near an amazing water park in Colorado called WaterWorld, and when I was kid I got discounted resident tickets, so as a teenager and in my early 20s, I went there a lot. It feels like a second home to me. The Ragin’ Rivers, Duelin’ Rivers, and Lazy River from the story are all basically there. On my website, I posted blogs with pictures of the rides that inspired me. When I was seventeen, I had this nightmare about another water park in Texas called Schlitterbahn where I was riding down a slide at night, and a masked killer was in a tube behind me swinging this butcher knife at me. I thought it was so scary and cool and for years I thought about it literally every day. I would listen to 80s music and imagine scenes; I would spend full days at WaterWorld and imagine more scenes, then go home and watch Sleepaway Camp and imagine even more scenes. Even now, whenever I go there, it’s kind of like visiting a theme park version of my story. My dream is to someday have WaterWorld put on kind of a Kill River themed haunted house there at the end of a season, that would be so epic.
Q. As an independent author myself, I’d like to find out more about your writing process. Do you fully outline your stories or prefer to just sit and write and see what happens?
A. I do outline quite a bit, even more so now that I have a somewhat better idea of what I’m doing. I try to keep my stories close to that classic slasher structure, but also make the fun daytime scenes in the beginning flow together nicely and have foreshadowing and significance. Writing the first half is always harder, because I don’t want those daytime scenes to drag. Once I get to the killing, it’s a lot faster, and a lot easier to stay focused, but the outline is still helpful because I’m constantly asking myself “Okay, how would the killer get from here to here?” and “Okay, what is everyone else doing while this person is getting killed?” I also write my first drafts on a typewriter and put my phone in the other room, otherwise I’m constantly getting on the internet and wasting time. Doing that gives me a chance to polish up the writing a lot more once I scan the pages into the laptop and correct them.
Q. Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what music?
A. No, I can’t listen to music while I write. If I did I’d start singing and rocking out too much.
Q. I love how you personally print and bind all of your books, as well as painting the cover art. Why did you decide to go this relatively time-consuming route?
A. I started binding the books because I wanted to keep them inexpensive for my readers. I know most people have never heard of me and any book they buy from me will be an impulse buy. I feel like more people check out books from authors they’ve never heard of if they’re not too pricey. By printing and binding my own books it costs me a fraction of what a print company, or CreateSpace print-on-demand would charge, and I can keep my prices low. My self-binding process and the low prices also help me sell a lot more books at horror conventions too. As for the cover art, I painted a little in high school and had fun. After Kill River was written, I thought, what the hell I’ll give painting a shot again. I put on 80’s music videos and just paint, it’s fun to see it come together. I never imagined so many people would respond to my cover art and be so supportive, that blows my mind.
Q. Now a question that’s very relevant to myself. You have a gorgeous pug called Vader – how do you find writing with a pug, when they constantly demand attention?
A. Haha thanks! Vader is much more attached to my wife than he is to me, so he doesn’t come around much while I’m writing. We also have a cat named Penny, she’s the one that’s attached to me and is always bugging me while I’m trying to write. We lived in this cramped one-bedroom apartment when I wrote Kill River, and Penny was right there sitting on the windowsill next to me most of the time. Now we have a house and the pug, but she still comes and bugs me while I’m writing my new books. In fact, she’s bugging me right now as I’m writing this.
Q. What’s next for Cameron Roubique – do you have any plans to branch out into other areas of horror, or perhaps even other genres? Personally, I’ll be happy if you have more slasher books planned – there’s a surprising lack of them!
A. You’re absolutely right, the world has a severe shortage of 80s slasher novels, and I am more than happy to keep the slasher party going. I try to write and release a new book every year sometime in October, and right now I’m way behind schedule but I’m gonna try my hardest to hit my deadlines for this year. Disco Deathtrap was the first in my Year of Blood series of loosely related slasher novels that all take place in 1981, the golden year of the slasher. The novel I’m currently working on is the next Year of Blood book in the series. I’ve also started working on Kill River 3 for release hopefully next year.
Q. Finally, I can’t leave you without asking for your top 5 slasher movies, or top 10 if you feel up to it!
A. That’s always the toughest question for me to answer. If I had to pick just ten I’d probably go with these in no particular order:
Friday the 13th 2 (1981, Steve Miner)
Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Wes Craven)
A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Jack Sholder)
Child’s Play 2 (1990, John Lafia)
Sleepaway Camp (1983, Robert Hiltzik)
Graduation Day (1981, Herb Freed)
The Burning (1981, Tony Maylam)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, Charles E. Sellier jr)
Leprechaun 2 (1994, Rodman Flender)