This is my latest interview:

The William Cook Interview:
The Traumatized Child: A Mind of Malice 

Conducted by 
Anthony Servante

Young Jeffrey Dahmer with Kitten

William Cook Biography

William Cook was born and raised in New Zealand and is the author of the novel ‘Blood Related.’ He has written many short stories that have appeared in anthologies and is the author of two short-story collections (‘Dreams of Thanatos’ & ‘Dark Deaths’) and two collections of poetry (‘Journey: the search for something’ & ‘Corpus Delicti’). His non-fiction work includes, Gaze Into the Abyss: The Poetry of Jim Morrison and Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors.

His work has been praised by Graham Masterton, Joe McKinney, Billie Sue Mosiman, Anna Taborska, Rocky Wood and many other notable writers and editors. William is also the editor of the anthology ‘Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror,’ published by King Billy Publications.

You can find him online at

Addendum (by Anthony Servante):
Originally, this interview was to follow "The Traumatized Child: A Malleable Mind", An Essay by Dr. Marcy Davidson in Update 6, as an antithesis to the positive goals of therapy or more as a cynical perspective, not unlike barriers to living with or overcoming trauma. But there were delays. This note accompanied the completed interview, and I realized that my exchange with William Cook had opened a personal abyss for both myself as well as William; for me, it was the nightmares that led to my questions, and for Cook, the introspection that writers of dark worlds often seek to avoid when they are not putting ink to paper. In William Cook's words: "Sincere apologies for the delay - to tell you the truth i found it very heavy-going as many of the questions forced me to dive deep into areas that I have tried to abstain from for a while now. Nevertheless it is now completed." And underneath all the words of this magnificent and magnanimous interview are glimpses of a different kind of trauma that I can only call "the erudition of madness".

The William Cook Interview 

Servante: Can you tell us about your studies in serial killer history and literature?
Cook: Sure. I recently completed my Masters in English Literature via Victoria University, here in Wellington, New Zealand. It was the culmination of about twenty years’ worth of reading and research into a subject that had fascinated me since I watched Hitchcock’s movie, ‘Psycho,’ when I was a boy. The title of my thesis is Literary Serial Killer Fiction: The Evolution of a Genre and the abstract perhaps explains the focus of my interest best: this study examines the dynamics of post-war American serial killer fiction as it relates to social and literary contexts. In the context of history and development, this study considers the impact and origins of particular works and how they have influenced the stylistic and thematic evolution of a particular subgenre I have called literary serial killer fiction. Emphasis is placed on select narratives that directly (or indirectly) transform, challenge and critique the genre conventions in which they are written. Of interest is the evolution of general serial killer fiction as a postmodern phenomenon, in terms of its popularity with the reading public, and in line with the growth of media interest in representations of serial killers. I draw on literary theory (in particular, ‘new historicism’) to demonstrate that the appeal and tropes of serial killer fiction reflect socio-political interests indicative of the era from where they were produced, and to show how the subgenre of literary serial killer fiction can be categorized using its own particular set of defining features.

I examine these aspects in detail in relation to the following selection of fictional serial-killer narratives: Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, James Ellroy’s Killer on the Road, and Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. For brevity’s sake, I have selected American narrative works that employ first-person narration and are transgressive in the way they focus on characters who defy convention and push boundaries, as do the narratives within larger genre traditions and protocols. In my view, these works are the purest examples of literary serial killer fiction in that they are characteristically unlike other examples that can easily be categorised under other literary genres. The appeal and popularity of the genre, alongside the functional aspects of the trope, leads me to conclude that it is an ideal form to interact with popular cultural narratives, while also allowing subversive interplay between both real and fictional concerns. The appeal of the genre to those authors who usually write outside of it, particularly in regard to its transgressive and allegorical qualities, is also of particular interest to this study. Because of the hybrid nature of the genre and the ease with which the central trope of the fictional serial killer transcends genres, the resulting possibilities provide a transgressive outlet for authors who wish to test boundaries, in both a literary and an ontological sense, in regard to the commentary serial killer fiction allows on the state of contemporary American literature and society. 

Servante: What drew you to pursue such a subject?
Cook: The subject has been of interest to me since I was a boy. A love of horror and thriller movies combined with similar genre interests in fiction seems to be the root cause of my interest in the subject matter. I have always been fascinated with the way the human mind acts (and interacts), especially in in abnormal sense. Early on, I had a rather villainous preoccupation with the outlaws and evil antiheroes that crossed over from popular culture into real life. I first became aware of the scope of human depravity after reading most of the books in my local library related to the World Wars. The material was abhorrent but none of the questions that were raised as to how and why humans would commit such atrocities were answered by these books. The next section of the library I discovered was the ‘True Crime’ section, which I was led to directly after looking for more material to explain the brutality of the war and the criminal trials of the Nazis at Nuremberg. I quickly moved on from war history to the fascinating world of Organized Crime and the charismatic psychopaths who ruled their illegal empires with ultra-violence. Crooks like Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, John Dillinger and, of course, Bonnie and Clyde. One book in particular was a huge influence on my reading and steered me towards more literature on the subject of serial homicide and mass murder (yes, there is a difference). The book was Colin Wilson and Pat Pitman’s mammoth Encyclopaedia of Murder. I admit, as a precocious adolescent I was titillated by the gruesome descriptions and case studies. These factual accounts seemed more bizarre and fascinating than anything I had read in fictional stories. From there on, I devoured any book I could read on the subject and spent countless hours poring over the cases, especially ‘cold case’ serial murder investigations like the infamous ‘Jack the Ripper’ series of murders. As I read more, I realized that the thing which compelled me the most about these cases was the psychology of the offender and how they came to be the way they ended up. My own experiences in life began to confirm some of the things I was learning about human behavior and it was perhaps because of this understanding, the reason why I was able to avoid developing into a criminal type myself. The upbringings of many of these killers was quite similar to my own and I guess that is partly why they fascinated me and repelled me at the same time. I realized that if I did not willfully work on my character and my responses to the world around me, that I too could be languishing in some jail for a similar crime. The fine line between those who commit these acts, and those who don’t – is very fine indeed. As I grew older and began to develop my writing as a means to vent and express myself, I began to write about these characters in a fictional sense. As such, my interest in the subject matter has continued as a research tool for my own fiction in order to develop realistic characters and as fodder for story ideas.     

Servante: Can you share with us your own works on serial killers?
Cook: I have written numerous short stories about serial killers and one full-length novel titled Blood Related. As mentioned above, Blood Related combined a lifelong interest in the macabre with a lot of research into true crime and serial killers. I was a bit of a weird kid admittedly and I was fascinated with death due to some early experiences where friends and family died. When I say ‘fascinated’ I don’t mean in a gleeful or deviant fashion – it was more of a curious interest borne out of fear and my sudden awareness of the fragile nature of human mortality. My interest in this morbid subject escalated after an event in my life when I was younger, whereby my best friend shot another friend of mine (his ex-girlfriend) and then killed himself. Obviously, this left a significant imprint on my mind and emotions. As a result, I began to wonder why a large percentage of humans use violence as a way of dealing with things and have a tendency towards self-destruction and nihilistic behavior. This aspect of humanity is constantly reinforced by the media and politicians, who perpetually sensationalize ‘news’ and use fear to drive political agendas. The politics of fear are very much a staple diet of news-hungry consumers who seem to relish lurid accounts of human cruelty and abuse, and (so it seems) probably the same reasons fiction is full of similar horrors.

The biggest influences on my writing of Blood Related were Colin Wilson’s ‘The Killer,’ James Ellroy’s brutal ‘Killer on the Road’ and Ann Rule’s true-crime account of Ted Bundy’s crimes in The Stranger Beside Me. I has always wanted to write a first-person novel and after six years of research and writing I finally completed Blood Related. I’m not sure that I would write another first-person fictional serial killer novel as it (the subject matter and the book) consumed my thoughts for a long time. I found it a lot more disturbing to write about psychopathic humans than I do writing tales of horror that deal with more supernatural and fantastical elements. The most frightening aspect of the whole process was how easy it was to contemplate and describe such characters and their sordid crimes. Essentially, my belief is that the human potential for violence and the subsequent interest and relativity of the topic, is what ensures that this type of literature endures as both subject material for author’s and reading material for a mass audience.

Servante: Can you distinguish antisocial behavior from sociopathic behavior for the layman?
Cook: Antisocial behavior is essentially any type of behavior that is deemed unacceptable by society. Public drunkenness, lewdness, graffiti, brawling, theft etc. are some examples. These behaviors can be associated with mitigating factors such as environment (poverty, peer pressure, addiction, learning and developmental disabilities, etc.) or nurture. However, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is much more complex than the behaviors that these people exhibit as antisocial behavior. A basic definition of a person with ASPD is that they have a personality disorder characterized by distinctive patterns of disregard for others. They exhibit poor moral judgement and lack the ability to empathize with others and be responsible for their own behavior. A person with ASPD usually has a lengthy criminal history as a result of their impulsive and aggressive behavior.
The distinction between ASPD and sociopathic disorder is not as clear-cut, as characteristics of both disorders overlap. Much in the same way that the terms ‘sociopathic’ and ‘psychopathic’ are linked by commonalities and are often used concurrently, so too is ASPD in terms of the diagnostic criteria that make up the defining characteristics of each disorder. In this regard these disorders are synonyms of each other, in that they are used descriptively to diagnose and describe similar afflictions. When each disorder is analyzed they do indeed share common traits and diagnostic criteria, but not necessarily all of the same features. These diagnoses do not seem to address any other contributing factors which may induce symptoms and behaviors distinct and of their own origin outside of the parameters of the criteria. That is, just because someone shows a lack of remorse or exhibits antisocial behavior, does not necessarily make them a psychopath or an antisocial person. Nor does it mean that psychopaths and people with ASPD exhibit behavior in a vacuum without the influence of other contributing disorders or maladies. In my opinion, the terms are used depending on the subject’s suitability as a candidate for the diagnosis and this is inevitably dependent on the person making the diagnosis. For example, a psychologist might refer to a person as a sociopath with antisocial tendencies, whereas a journalist might refer to that same individual as a psychopath.
The generally accepted definition of a psychopath is as follows: “an individual who suffers from a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.” There are also further stages of psychopathy, including ‘criminal psychopathology’ which usually refers to people who exhibit psychopathic traits when committing criminal acts. Most serial killers, for example, are considered criminal psychopaths (especially by the FBI) who display all the hallmark traits of a sociopath, or psychopath, during and leading up to the criminal act of murder.
These definitions can best be considered as part of a venn diagram, where each criterion falls under the different definition/diagnosis, yet the shared criteria form the basis for all three disorders. The grey areas, or the criterion that don’t match indicate the influence of things which fall outside the diagnosis. A person diagnosed with ASPD or sociopathy may also have other conditions such as attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and bi-polar, to name a few, which all share traits such as impulsivity, selfishness, aggressive/destructive and antisocial behavior. As can be imagined, the line between one disorder and another can be blurred and the diagnosis of a disorder easily manipulated or misdiagnosed, hence the confusion and interchange between these terms and definitions. 
  With the research I have completed, my own understanding of these terms is derivative of the oft-times conflicting definitions and diagnostic criteria available. From what I have gleaned, it seems to be that ‘sociopathic behavior’ is much more subtle and usually more menacing in its deliberateness than antisocial behavior. ASPD seems to be largely a socially influenced disorder, in that the individual is responding or reacting to their environment or as a direct result of their upbringing or some developmental handicap. Unlike the majority of ‘normal’ folk, people with ASPD lack the ability to control their behavior and impulses as a result. On the other hand, people who have psychopathic tendencies are usually calculating and manipulative and covet their behavior with ease. That is, most people who have psychopathic tendencies are adept at hiding their true nature from those around them. They lie profusely and are usually intelligent enough to keep their antisocial activities under-wraps or manipulate those around them into believing they are not responsible. While most sociopathic personalities who commit violent crimes, especially murder (commonly referred to as ‘Psychopaths’), are antisocial personality types as well, not all sociopathic personalities display antisocial or violent psychopathic behavior. For example, Donald Trump displays all the hallmark traits of a sociopathic personality type – his traits include a lack of empathy or compassion, narcissistic, grandiose, untruthful, ruthless and selfish – yet he lacks the cold, calculating nature of a psychopath who is far less impulsive and more skilled at keeping his true nature hidden.
Servante: In which behavior do we find the killer instinct? Can you elaborate?
Cook: I do not actually believe that humans have an instinct for homicide, in particular. I do however believe that we are all capable of it given the right set of circumstance and that our species has an innate capability for violence. For example, someone threatens the life of your child or partner or the destruction of a group of people and you act to protect them by whatever means necessary. Given no other option (after exhausting all other options), when it comes down to ‘kill or be killed’ there are those of us who will submit to whatever fate befalls us or their kin, and then there are those of us who will fight tooth and nail to protect family and self with violence. I would suggest that those in the military services who progress beyond theory to full combat situations are of the latter ilk – that is, they have developed the ability to kill and are not afraid to do so in certain situations. First responders such as police and armed tactical response units, also face these life threatening situations all the time and (usually) act accordingly; that is, an extreme response is carried out for the greater good of the public. In this regard, humans have the ability to learn to kill effectively, especially when sanctioned by their peers and governmental agencies. In these instance, these individuals have been nurtured or trained to use aggression and violence to dominate in order to achieve a set goal. If they had not been trained and then thrust into a situation or set of circumstances such as combat or scenario-based events that they have been specifically trained how to respond to, it is unlikely that these people would have ever taken another person’s life in a civilian role.
In the case of people who commit multiple acts of homicide, we might think that they possess a ‘killer instinct’ because they have murdered more than once and seem to have no qualms about it. One characteristic of many serial killers is that their first murder is usually not premeditated – it is either a crime of passion or rage, or a crime of opportunity that presents itself at a particular moment when the killer’s actions and impulses are seemingly beyond their control; e.g. they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or they over-react (violently) to a situation without thought of the consequences etc. Many serial killers (indeed, the majority of) have first experienced the act of killing in scenario-based situations via military training. Many serial killers that have seen combat have had their first kills on the battle-field, or have witnessed extreme violence in these circumstance.
The old adage, ‘the first cut is the deepest’ seems an apt description of the initial kill that paves the way for repeat offences committed by serial killers. In other words, once a murderer, always a murderer – it cannot be undone. The serial killer realizes that all hope is lost with the first kill and that whatever moral basis for their own lives might have been before the act, is now gone. The first murder seems to be the most difficult for serial killers in that the ‘cooling down’ period is usually longest between the first and second murders. For some, the first murder satiates their fantasies to the point where they feed off the memory of the act until it no longer satisfies their deviance and they feel they have to kill again to feed their fantasies (The BTK killer, Dennis Rader, apparently waited eight years in between murders before starting to kill again). Others seem to merely wait until they feel that the ‘coast is clear’ and that their crime has either gone undetected, or that suspicion has been averted, allowing them to commit another murder for whatever reason (e.g. sexual homicide, murder for financial gain, murder for notoriety, etc.). For serial killers, the murders that follow are typically variations on a theme. They perfect the experience dependent on the influence of their selfish desires, impulses and fantasies and the responses to their crimes. In this respect they get better or more proficient at killing and concealing the crimes as the experience becomes a bigger part of their daily lives. Often their control is reduced as their violence escalates in line with the increase in their thoughts and behaviors, exhibited in more bizarre deviant practices with their victims and the crime scenes. Most serial killers seem to be unable to control the impulse (rather than instinct) to murder, once they have welded their fantasy lives to the act of killing. Similar in some respects to adrenaline junkies who chase excitement in the act of sky-diving or extreme sports, the adrenal drive becomes synonymous with pleasure and escalating behavior patterns.
In this regard, the serial killer differs from others who commit single murders because they accept their fate and hold on to the act of murder as the most significant event in their otherwise meaningless lives and go on to repeat it over and over again. Rather than be disgusted and repelled by their behavior, they seem to acknowledge the act of murder as a defining moment in their existence. Almost as if the act of murder is a pinnacle of all their conflicted emotions and past experiences, culminating in a release of rage, anger, fantasy, drive and, ultimately, self-expression and power. The committal of what is considered by most societies as the ‘ultimate sin,’ becomes an act of rebellion against that society and, essentially, a defiant expression of power that the killer has not been able to exhibit up until that moment. Many serial killers covet these initial crimes due to conflicting emotions and societal expectations of ‘right and wrong’ – even for psychopaths who have no discernible conscience, they understand that what they have done is morally wrong (to ‘normal’ members of society) and that they need to distance themselves from their crimes in order to escape legal and social justice.   
As far as the ‘survival of the fittest’ and the instinct for violence that the concept suggests, humans are at the top of the food chain in terms of their ability to dominate other species with violence. Yet this ability to commit atrocities against fellow humans and other species seems to present itself in the majority of people, only when the right circumstances are present. The question of ‘nature versus nurture’ is often referred to in discussions concerning motivation for violent crime, in particular homicide. In my opinion, it is rather a moot point in that it has no bearing on why the person actually commits murder, rather it posits a theory of culpability that offers no firm conclusions as to whether or not humans are hard-wired for murder. Murder, especially serial homicide is far more complex and complicated than an A/B quotient that does not allow for ‘grey areas’ or combinations of reason and circumstance. For example, the influence of free will on human action, or the degree to which the mind can manipulate reality with fantasy and obsessive thought patterns. The ability of humans to determine their own behaviors is what separates us from any instinct to kill that we may have buried deep inside us. Whether due to social conditioning or biological predisposition, human willpower far outweighs and indeed governs our violent impulses within our modern society. However, as outlined above, given the right circumstances (and in most cases with the right training – learned behavior included) we all have the ability to react violently, even murderously. Serial killers almost seem to possess a greater ‘will to power’ than the rest of us who use our will power to keep our behavior (and, perhaps, instincts) in check. What appears to be an instinct in these multiple-murderers, is more likely an ability to willfully determine their behavior without moral code, in order to satisfy selfish fantasies and express their outrage at society with acts of murder that are as perhaps nothing more than abhorrent displays of power the human capacity for violence.  

Servante: A writer who tells stories of mass murderers--how does he differ from the real killer?
Cook: Um, they write, they don’t kill. The difference should be obvious, really. Although the moral imperative behind both acts is uncannily similar in most regards. The writer, much like the killer, plans ahead and seeks to produce an aesthetic act or piece of work that will cause public reaction. The moral aspect of writing about violence and horrific and inhumane acts is worth considering too. I am sure that the majority of authors who pen ultra-violent stories involving homicidal killers, question the morality of creating these types of portrayals, especially in a market-place already saturated with graphic depictions of serial homicide usually involving mainly violence against women and children. Perhaps authors are guilty of perpetuating mental or emotional damage on unsuspecting readers and impressionable people who are already vulnerable to the influence of such material? The telling of a story and the acting out of a homicidal fantasy are two different realities – perhaps they inform each other in rare cases, yet aside from subject material this is the only point of similarity in the character of the principle actors.

Servante: Is childhood trauma or any trauma a catalyst in the killer's/writer's motivations?
Cook: I am sure it is. Childhood experience shapes all humans into the adults they become. My own fascination with horror and dark psychological subjects is because of the things I experienced as a child and an adolescent. I believe that most fictional work has some element of truth in it that stems from the author’s own experiences. In my own case, writing about dark subjects is a form of expressing things that bother me internally. Rather than acting out by doing these horrible things in real life, I write about them and that seems to satisfy the demons that lurk in the dark realms of my brain. The same, of course, applies to the heroic actions of my ‘good’ characters. In this respect, as an author, I live vicariously through my stories and characters.

Servante: Based on your studies on serial killers, do you believe the symptoms were there in the childhood to see a future killer/writer?
Cook: There are a set of adolescent behaviors that supposedly point to the development of a violent socio/psychopathic personality. Criminologists commonly refer to these as the Macdonald triad: a history (adolescent) of arson, bed-wetting and cruelty (sadism) towards animals. According to psychiatrist J.M. Macdonald, he suggested that, ‘if all three or any combination of two, are present together, [then these are] to be predictive of or associated with later violent tendencies, particularly with relation to serial offenses.’ ‘(Macdonald 1963). Subsequent research has indicated that while these behaviors are evident in many case studies of serial killers, they are not prevalent in ALL cases and are also evident in non-serial-killer character assessments. The more likely explanation is that these types of behaviors are symptomatic responses to childhood abuse, neglect and emotional/psychological issues stemming from environmental influences. Therefore, while the symptoms may have been present in the childhoods of murderers, they are not present in ALL cases and hence not reliable as future indicators of a criminal type. Most events and character behaviors can be illuminated retrospectively – hindsight is a great way to ‘join the dots’ and see the evidence and origins of cause and effect. However, based on the unreliability of this way of analyzing character behaviors, I would have to say that this type of deduction is redundant as it reveals no definitive causal relationship between the behavior of murderers and their upbringings, when analyzed alongside those who have the same upbringings yet who do not go on to become killers.

Servante: Could the proper therapy (such as dream, painting, role-play, etc.) have prevented these children from developing into killers?
Cook: I don’t think so as these types of therapies are usually always applied after the fact. That is, unless these therapies are applied as mandatory activities in primary school settings from a very early age to ALL students, I feel their effectiveness is almost always null and void as the damage has already been done to the subject as treatment is always applied ex post facto (after the event). To be able to identify early behaviors for ‘at risk’ subjects and then apply therapies, this in itself is a massive task and one that must account for the ability of the subject to respond ideally to the therapies administered. For a psychopath, ‘therapy’ is pointless as their psychological state is largely defended from any response-type stimuli by their lack of conscience, emotion and propensity for egotistical self-determination. For the psychopath, any form of therapy is nothing more than a game-type situation where they can manipulate and fool the therapist into believing the normalcy of their (psychopathic) behavior. In saying that, if therapeutic activities were introduced early enough before the subject began to exhibit homicidal tendencies, it may influence the way they respond to situations and give them a method of controlling their own behavior to the extent that it could possibly prevent someone from letting tendencies escalate and ‘snow-ball’ into homicidal behavior later on in life.

Servante: Do you feel any therapy reveals anything helpful for the therapist of potential serial killers?
Cook: I don’t honestly know. I’m sure that in the field of criminological and psychiatric research, the accumulated data-sets gathered from these therapeutic experiments are likely to yield results that can be used to determine what is the most effective type of therapy for certain types of individuals. The problematic aspect of this questions lies in the word ‘potential.’ For what is potential, other than what might be? My own view on what type of therapy or thing could be done to prevent people from becoming serial killers, is that there is not enough people in authority with the right mind-set and knowledge to identify who these people may or may not be. The FBI have done huge amounts of research into who and what a serial killer is – yet their research and systems are such that (as far as I know) they still cannot identify and change the character of someone who will go on to commit serial murder. Someone who is within the system – an inmate, patient, employee etc. – may throw up behavior that red-flags their potential for serial murder because it conforms to already-established patterns of behavior that are used to diagnose psychiatric disorders or criminal behaviors. But the subject has to be within the system for that identification to take place, and then it can only be surmised. The debris and behavior of the serial murderer and their crimes, if accurately recorded and interpreted, is obviously of interest and help to investigators whose job it is to apprehend these people but as far as therapy goes, most if not all serial killers are psychopathic personality types who are resistant to most forms of therapy. In other words, the evidence to date points to this fact and suggests that any therapy provided to serial murderers would best be provided to their victims, who may actually benefit from it.

Thank you to William Cook for the interview and thank you to you readers for your time today. Always a pleasure to have you join us here in the Servante of Darkness blog. See you at Update 8. 


For more on William Cook, 
where I compare writers of serial killers to actual killers. It's intriguing how the minds of fiction authors and actual murderers think alike in the execution of their gruesome deeds in ink and in blood. 


Recently, Donald White asked me to do an interview for his writer's blog and this was the result. Be sure to check out Donald's website for lots of interesting features on writing and up and coming writers. 

An Interview with William Cook 

The Writer’s Blog welcomes the inimitable William Cook! Please tell us a little about yourself.

William Cook:

Hi and thanks for having me here Donald. I like to think of myself as primarily a writer first and an artist second. I live in New Zealand at the foot of the world, happily married with four daughters, in charge of the house and looking after the two youngest girls. I have been writing weird stories ever since I was a kid. My first published works were poems in various literary journals in NZ and a few in the States. Back in 1996 I published a collection of verse titled 'Journey: The Search for Something' and had the occasional poem and short story published online, but nothing really of note until 2010 when Lee Pletzers from Triskaideka Books accepted my story 'The Devil Inside' for the 2010 Masters of Horror Anthology. I have always loved the Horror genre and dark literature, so this really inspired me to write what I loved rather than what I thought other people wanted to read and it has finally started to pay off. The thing I love about the Horror/Thriller genres is that a good story will get your pulse racing and your heart thumping. I feel it is the best medium to create a world where the reader feels alive because they are experiencing fear of some sort. Sounds sadistic I know, but I personally find that no other genre gives me the thrills I seek when I immerse myself in a fictional world. I have since had quite a few Horror shorts published in various anthologies.

My novel 'Blood Related,' was re-released by Black Bed Sheet Books Halloween 2012. Writing it was a labor of love and took me roughly six years to write and it wasn't until I changed day-jobs that I had the time to bring it all together as my debut novel. The novel is about a disturbed young man called Caleb Cunningham, whose violent father is a suspected serial killer and mother, an insane alcoholic. After his father's suicide, Cunningham's disturbing fantasy-life becomes reality, as he begins his killing spree in earnest. His identical twin brother Charlie is released from an asylum and all hell is about to break loose, when the brothers combine their deviant talents. Blood Related is a serial-killer/crime novel told in a first-person narrative style from the killer's (Caleb's) point-of-view.
I have been privileged to have authors I look up to, give me feedback on Blood Related. People like Jonathan Nasaw, Guy N Smith, Laird Barron, Mark Edward Hall, John Paul Allen, and Nicholas Grabowsky, have all been kind enough to read and review my work - something I would never have believed possible until now.

Not only a talented author, but you are also an excellent artist. Tell us what it is like to create such gruesome works of art.

William Cook:

Well it all depends on the work of course but generally speaking, for some reason I can’t explain, my preference has always been depicting darkly ghoulish things. I have recently moved away from using traditional painting/drawing methods and now do 90% of all my work with Photoshop and digital mediums. I get my inspiration from my dreams and the various pop-cultural works I peruse, i.e. film, comics, fiction and music. I will usually start with a small sketch in a notebook or write down an idea of an art-piece that comes to mind (descriptively) before taking digital photographs of textures, trees, people and other subjects that interest me. I’ll then bring everything together via Photoshop and use it to add darkness, depth and dimension to my original vision. It is hardly ever reproduced physically apart from the occasional print or book cover so I like to call it my ‘virtual dark art.’ With each passing year I am less interested in the visceral gore-infused stuff that I used to produce, instead, I am leaning towards ‘quiet’ horror these days and subtlety is something I strive for in both my visual and written work.

Blood Related was your first novel and, arguably, most controversial work to date. Explain how you were able to get into the minds of the two main characters.

William Cook:

Blood Related combined a lifelong interest in the macabre with a lot of research into true crime and serial killers. I can trace my interest in this morbid subject to an event in my life when I was younger, whereby my best friend shot another friend of mine (his ex-girlfriend) and then killed himself. Obviously, this would leave a lasting impression on most people as it did to me. Subsequently I began to wonder why a large percentage of humans treat each other so badly and have a tendency towards self-destruction and nihilistic behavior. This aspect of my inquiring mind is constantly reinforced (the questions) by the media who use such occurrences to perpetually sensationalize ‘news’ and by our so-called leaders who use fear to drive political agendas. The politics of fear are very much a staple diet of news-hungry consumers who seem to relish lurid accounts of human cruelty and abuse, and (so it seems) probably the same reasons fiction is full of the horrors of human behavior.
There are plenty of fictional books that deal with the subject of serial murder and during the research I conducted for BR, a perceptible ‘canon’ of such literature dating all the way back to Gutenberg and beyond (The Bible/Quran etc) became apparent to me. Apart from being of interest for research purposes, serial killer fiction has always intrigued me and some of the first ‘adult’ books I ever read as a young teenager dealt with the subject. Probably the two biggest influences on my writing of BR were Colin Wilson’s ‘The Killer’ and James Ellroy’s brutal ‘Killer on the Road.’ I have always wanted to write a first-person novel and the six years I spent writing BR were the result of this desire. I never thought the book would see the light of day but it all seemed to come together quickly when I bought a new lap-top and within three months of shopping it around to various indie presses it was published. I’m not sure that I would write another first-person serial killer novel as it (the subject matter and the book) consumed my thoughts for a long time. I found it a lot more disturbing to write about psychopathic humans than I do writing tales of horror that deal with more supernatural and fantastical elements. The most frightening aspect, to writing BR and creating believable characterizations of serial killers, is how easy it was to contemplate and describe such characters and their sordid crimes. BR lends itself to a sequel and I have made sure that the next book will be told in the third person, for the sake of my own sanity.

You are also quite the poet, having released two collections: Moment of Freedom and Temper of the Tide. How does one achieve true feeling in verse?

William Cook:

Before I began writing stories I wrote poems. The first ‘real’ poem I remember was Blake’s ‘Tyger’ and I have enjoyed reading and writing verse ever since. My first published work was in verse-form and my first published book was a collection of my poems back in 1996, titled ‘Journey: the Search for Something.’ The verse has nearly always ‘written itself’ and generally comes after periods of introspection or strong emotional experience. Most of my early work was terrible heart-wrought angst spewed onto the page as fast as I could write it and thankfully, with a bit of experience and a more temperate lifestyle, I have stopped referring to my emotions when I write poetry. ‘True feeling’ is a completely subjective experience, both on and off the page; the only thing I can suggest in response to your question is that honesty needs to be employed when writing poetry that deals with emotion or the translation thereof. Cadence is also important and I have always tried to use onomatopoeia in my verse in order to convey the ‘sense’ of whatever it is I’m trying to impart. Simplicity is also important; there is no point writing convoluted expressionistic verse, if no one is ever going to understand what it is you are trying to say! After writing poetry for over twenty years I think I have finally began to find my voice and I think it is important to have your own voice as a poet, in a medium so canonically reliant on style and form. In other words, write from the heart with the mind as your guiding light, in a voice of your own making. Easier said than done, right?

Tell us about your work with JWK Fiction. What advice would you give writers looking to submit stories?

William Cook:

JWK Fiction [] has published quite a few poems and short stories of mine and I’m happy to recommend James and the team to any aspiring writer of Horror and Speculative fiction. I think that a large part of having stories accepted for publication in the indie presses, is to write well (obviously) and to read the submission guidelines carefully. A lot of writers out there have a hard-drive full of stories that they want to see published, make sure the story you submit is what the publisher is looking for. It sounds basic but if you’re going to spend time tailoring a previously written story to fit a submission call you may as well start fresh and write something new with the guidelines in mind. I made this mistake (reanimating old work) when I was first starting out and the rejections came in thick and fast, as soon as I started writing fresh stories for specific guidelines I started having success with my submissions. If you submit a lot of stories I would also suggest keeping a record of your subs including story titles, word counts and dates etc. It saves embarrassment and time wasting if you’re simultaneously submitting stories and then having to remember if they’ve been accepted elsewhere etc.

Who are your three favorite authors and how have they influenced your work?

William Cook:

Robert Bloch, Flannery O’Connor, Sherwood Anderson (I have more than three). I love the way they convey human emotion, particularly fear, through the short story medium. They are the writers of psychological drama who I enjoy reading the most. Without reading these writers I probably would have never written short stories – very inspirational and efficient writers, who better to emulate.

What are you working on right now?

William Cook:

I am midway through the sequel to Blood Related titled ‘Blood Trail’, finishing edits on an anthology that JWK Fiction is publishing called ‘Fresh Fear’ [] with stories from the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Billie Sue Mosiman, JF Gonzalez, Jack Dann, Robert Dunbar, amongst others, and working on two separate collections of my short fiction and poetry.

Thank you for joining us on The Writer's Blog, William. We look forward to more horrific masterpieces to come...

You can find William Cook's literary works here:


Online Portfolio:


William Cook is a writer of the macabre from New Zealand, a small antipodean island group in the South Pacific. When not writing, he looks after two small daughters and designs book covers that are designed to scare the hell out of people. Having held down a multitude of jobs before becoming a "Domestic Manager", he brings to his writing a vast array of experience that translates to the page in the form of strange characters and situations that bleed horror. From slinging timber in lumber yards, cutting plastic film in a meat packaging company, making rat-poison and acid cleaning products, working on a prawn trawler in the Gulf of Carpenteria, selling ads, and teaching English in Korea, to name a few of the roles he has performed - being a starving writer of Horror fiction seemed like a completely viable occupation.

Currently working on a sequel to his debut novel 'Blood related', titled 'Blood Trail', it is due for completion mid-year and for publication by his amazing publisher Black Bed Sheet Books sometime in the hereafter.


Interview by for Haunted After Dark magazine
New interview with me by Andy Soar from one of the UK's most hardcore Horror mags - Haunted After Dark - Check it out here and buy a copy.

They also gave Blood Related a great review - check it out.

Interview with Lindsey Beth Goddard from Author Interview Corner



Hi, William. How is 2013 going so far?

Hi, Lindsey. It’s going great, thanks. 2013 is going to be a big year and has already started with lots of positive things happening. Every story I’ve sent out this year has so far been accepted and I’m on track for lots of projects I have committed to this year.

Blood Related is your debut novel, originally published in 2011, then re-released by Black Bed Sheets Books in 2012. Did you write very much before starting Blood Related? You had a short story published in the Masters Of Horror anthology in 2010, but I don’t see anything before that. Have you been writing for very long, or is it a recent development in your life?

Yes, ‘Blood Related’ is my first novel and my short story, ‘Devil Inside,’ (recently published as a Kindle short) was my first proper Horror story accepted for a print anthology. I first started writing short stories when I was about twelve years old but never felt confident enough to send them to any publishers, and in retrospect that was probably a good thing. I cut my publishing teeth on poetry and wrote verse for many years with limited success. I had poetry published in a few New Zealand literary periodicals and a couple of UK and US independent publications but nothing of any note. I self-published a limited edition hard-copy collection of verse titled ‘Journey: the search for something’ in 1996. I sold all copies, but I had come to the conclusion that what I really wanted to do was write fiction. I felt that poetry was becoming redundant as a viable medium for what I wanted to express – which was essentially, stories. So I put away the poems and taught myself how to write short fiction which has led to where I am now.

What was the hardest part about writing a novel? Any advice to aspiring novel writers?

I don’t really feel in a position to spout advice to novel writers as I’m just a beginner myself. However, if there was one piece of advice I would offer, that would be to never give up. It took me five years of writing and research to produce Blood Related but as a result of my dedication I have learned a lot and have produced a reasonably coherent novel in the process. I am working on the sequel at the moment, and it is definitely easier with the knowledge and lessons I learnt first time around. The hardest part about writing the novel was finding the time to actually sit down and put the words on the page. I now have a writing plan that seems to work for me but I know that the next novel will bring its own set of circumstances and lessons to be learned.

I’d like to take a moment to tell you what I enjoyed most about Blood Related. Considering how the plot centers around an entire family of serial killers, you had the perfect opportunity to sell books based on shock value. Yet, you maintained a good balance of psychological horror and gore. I was prepared to encounter gratuitous rape and torture scenes which often run rampant in this genre, but you didn’t overdo it. Yes, there is rape and torture in Blood Related (what self-respecting serial killer book is without ‘em?!), but only to serve a purpose, and not an overwhelming amount. 
Did you make a conscious decision to write the book this way? Or did you just write it as it came to you?

Blood Related went through at least six full edits. I worked in publishing when I was younger and used my experience as a sub-editor/proof-reader to really work the story into shape. I was probably a bit ambitious with the structure that I chose as I wanted to give the story a ‘true crime’ feel with lots of ephemera and appendices to accentuate different aspects of the novel. I really enjoy reading ‘meta-fiction’ authors like John Barth and David Foster Wallace, but also love authors like James Ellroy, Chuck Palahniuk and Joyce Carol Oates. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I took a myriad of influences and ideas and attempted to construct a ‘literary’ Horror/Thriller novel. Ambitious, I know, but to some degree I think it works but unfortunately is mostly non-apparent on the first reading. I am a huge fan of Robert Bloch and Flannery O’Connor, both masters of psychological horror in their own ways, and their style influences my own with the way they subtly depict violence. Their stories run deep with the worst human violence, but the graphic nature of the stories is mostly implied and left to the reader’s imagination and this is what I was trying to replicate, as I personally find it more disturbing than literal over-stated violence. So, yes, it was a conscious decision not to be too graphic in descriptions of violence within the novel, although sometimes I did get a bit carried away.

Who is your favorite character from Blood Related? Why?

I quite like the character of Ray Truman, the clichéd alcoholic cop who has spent a lifetime hunting serial killers. ‘Blood Trail’, the sequel, is largely told from the perspective of this failed but likeable character and I hope that it will be an interesting accompaniment to the first book. I’ve spent most of my reading life immersed in Horror and Thriller literature and there is a definite conformity of ‘type’ to the characters of cops/investigators. It is the character of Ray Truman that will carry the ‘Blood’ trilogy (yes, it will be a trilogy) to its final conclusion and I’m looking forward to playing the role forward in as many interesting ways as possible. I don’t think I could do another first-person serial killer narrative – it really became quite moribund towards the end of writing Blood Related, as I waded through the perspective of a homicidal psychopath.

Blood Trail, your second novel (and sequel to the first) is slated for a 2013 release. Can you tell us a little bit about it? Approximate release date?

My publisher, Nicholas Grabowsky from Black Bed Sheet Books (, has expressed an interest in a sequel to Blood Related. I was always going to write a sequel with or without interest as the story is not complete and I want it told. Having seen enough interest, from my publisher and from my readers for a sequel, has given me a real push towards finishing the novel mid-2013. So far I’m on track and circumstances-permitting it should be ready for publication around July. ‘Blood Trail’ is the sequel to ‘Blood Related’ and finds Ray Truman struggling to cope with the injuries he received from Caleb Cunningham in the climax of the first novel. Cunningham has fled and is now an international fugitive who is embarking on a ‘murder tour’ – visiting the sites and hunting grounds of some of his favorite serial killers. Meanwhile, Ray Truman is on the mend with the help of Cunningham’s ex-therapist/psychologist who he inadvertently falls in love with. Together, they realize that Cunningham is still killing as they follow his trail of murder via international news stories. By the time that Truman is healthy enough to continue his mission, Cunningham has tired of his tour and is on his way back to Portvale (his fictitious home town/city). Without giving too much away that is the basic plot for the sequel and promises more of a tradition psychological thriller story.

Who are your heroes?

My heroes are primarily writers who have challenged established traditions to produce work that frightens as much as it makes people think. Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Graham Masterton, Poppy Z Brite, James Ellroy, and other writers like Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Hemingway, etc. The list goes on. David lynch is probably the greatest artist that I admire for his film, art and aesthetic sensibility.

In addition to writing, you’re also an artist. Where can we view your work?

I have a number of websites where you can see my work. For book cover art try here: and for general art here:

Is there anything else you’re working on you’d like my readers to know about?

I’m always working on short fiction and I am hoping to have a collection released shortly. Keep an eye out for ‘Blood Trail’ post mid-year.

Where can we find you on the web? and on Amazon here:

Thank you, William, for joining us.

Interview with Sonia Fogal for A Journey With Words
Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Fascinating Interview with the Author of "Blood Related" - William Cook
William Cook, author of the great "Blood Related" was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about his book, horror, and the writing experience. He had some fascinating answers. Enjoy!
1. Well I guess I have to ask the question at the top of my mind first. I loved "Blood Related", I thought it was a fascinating read. It is very graphic and very violent so I must ask about where all that came from. I'm assuming you aren't a serial killer so you must have done a great deal of research. Wondering about where you went for that research.

I don’t know why but I’ve had a fascination with the darker side of humanity ever since I was a teenager. I am a huge Horror fan; movies, books, art, theory. I’d say that this obsession comes from the same source. In fact if I hadn’t channeled my predilection for darkness into the writing of Horror I would hate to think where it would’ve taken me otherwise! ‘Blood Related’ is a story about a family of serial killers, each with varying degrees of psychopathology. The two central characters are twin brothers, one who is of the psychotic variety and the other a more organized and cunning psychopath, and yes there is a difference. I researched as much about abnormal psychology as I did about serial killers and their methods and characteristics. Most serial killers are basically psychopathic, of reasonable intelligence, appear normal when occasion calls, and so on. And of course this is one of many aspects to a complex and evolving criminal psychology. I read both fiction and non-fictional accounts of these fiendish characters in order to get inside the mind of these killers. I’m not sure if I’d write another first-person narrative from a serial killer’s perspective; at times it was quite harrowing and disturbing to envisage the kind of thought processes these people operate with. 
2. Now I don't condone the actions of serial killers in any way but one thing I liked about "Blood Related" is that we got in the head of the killer. We learned about his childhood and the horrors he witnessed that played a part in him becoming the monster he became. He actually seemed to care about a couple of people. I actually felt bad for him sometimes because in a sense he was a victim too. As with the plot, I wondered where this came from. Was this from research or was it you considering what may go into the creation of a serial killer?
What a lot of people don’t realize is that these freaks of nature are capable of portraying human emotion and on the surface probably appear more normal than Joe-average. One of the basic tenets of writing good characters is that the reader must be sympathetic to at least some aspect of the protagonist as a fellow human being. It is because of these two factors that Caleb the main character does have a
sensitive side and has had a crummy upbringing. Nature vs nurture is an old debate when it comes to the development of criminal behavior and I would have to say from my research I believe that given the right circumstance everyone is capable of murder. Sounds shocking but when you really think about it, there are certain things that would drive the most placid of us to react with violence, e.g. the murder/assault of a loved one, perceived injustice, road rage, protection of children/family members, self defense and so on. So just because Caleb has had a crappy abusive childhood and is also genetically predisposed to mental illness because of his lineage (coming from three generations of murderous kin), does not necessarily make him a serial killer. There are plenty of people with the same experience and familial history who don’t turn into killers. But with Caleb I wanted to show how his thinking is twisted and trace the source of his urge to kill. Hopefully by the end of the book the reader will be asking the same questions and have a more in-depth understanding of the motives behind this kind of criminal behavior. If we can have some understanding about how these people operate, hopefully it in turns gives us a greater sense of our own nature. But essentially, I am trying to scare the hell out of my readers while stimulating the morbid curiosity inside most of us by presenting a complex fictional character, slightly distanced from reality (because he is fictional), that people feel safe enough to analyze in the comfort of their own homes. 
3. Am I crazy to enjoy a book so graphic and violent? If I am then many people are. I think there are a lot of reasons people enjoy this kind of story. What are your thoughts? 
Have you ever slowed down to rubber-neck at a car accident? I think most of us have. There is a reason why the news on television streams hours of violent imagery from across the world. 80-90% of most news broadcasts focus on negative events; war, murder, serial killers, accidents, death, etc. It is seldom that we see positive stories on the news and this is because the general audience laps up this kind of media side-show. I think it was Thomas Hobbes who said something like “war [violence] is the essential nature of [hu]mankind,” and as I said earlier I tend to agree – especially in the male of our species. I won’t get into the gender difference/similarities on this topic as it is a whole discussion in itself filled with interesting facts and potentialities. But in answer to your question, no you are not crazy. People enjoyed being scared and confronting death from a safe perspective. Someone said that we spend our whole lives preparing for death and this may well be why we pursue horror in literature (in all genres). If we can confront death from a distance and survive, in a way this affirms life, but for some of us (like the characters in Blood Related) it also serves to hasten that realization to its ultimate conclusion. 
4. Did you enjoy writing this book or was it difficult? What did you like the most and what was the most difficult part?
I enjoyed parts of it but found it difficult to write due to the subject matter. I love creating worlds as I did with this story in the form of ‘Portvale’, a fictitious industrial city within a larger metropolis. I also created the small rural town of ‘Repose’ which was fun to populate and landscape. So I guess that the most difficult part was placing myself in the mind of a seriously disturbed serial killer. The most enjoyable aspect was the sense of completion I felt when I had achieved one of my life goals – writing a novel.
5. How long did it take you to write "Blood Related"?
Blood Related took nearly six years to write. I really did do a lot of research and possibly got bogged down in that side of things, hence the extended period of writing. The novel evolved from a shorter work titled ‘The Eternal Now’ and took on a life of its own. I wrote a lot of it as I sat on the train on my way to and from work, scribbling frantically in my notebook. In the end one notebook grew to ten and the outline turned into a solid novel-length manuscript.

After many edits and changes it finally reached a presentable level and I started subbing it around to traditional publishers in New Zealand with no success. I write in an American style/vernacular so the obvious choice was to look to the US for a publisher. I subbed the manuscript to three different publishers including my current publisher and received three offers to publish. I originally chose Angelic Knight Press as they were the first to come to the party, and in retrospect my decision was probably a bit of a hasty one, because the day I signed the contract I received two others one of which was my preferred choice, Black Bed Sheet Books. Things were amicable enough with AKP and I was one of their ‘flagship’ writers as they were just starting off and thank them for taking a chance on a previously unpublished novelist. Nick Grabowsky from BBSB left his offer open and when my contract term had finished with AKP and no new contract was forthcoming I happily accepted Nick’s offer to publish and here we are. The new edition is a lot tighter and the formatting is professionally done and I’m really happy to be with BBSB who are also publishing the sequel ‘Blood Trail.’ 
6. I have seen on a couple of places on the internet that there will be a sequel! Got a title yet? Any idea when it will be available?
As mentioned above, the sequel is titled ‘Blood Trail’ and should be available sometime later on this year from BBSB. I am halfway complete and am aiming for a June wrap for the completion of the sequel. It will be quite different from the first book, in that the perspective has shifted from a first-person account by the killer to a focus on Ray Truman, the troubled investigator who is trying to bring down the Cunningham clan. 
The following is an excerpt from the sequel:
I looked and I observed. When I turned away, I looked some more. And I continued looking, into the night, into my dreams, into my waking hours. The vision of Jean-Marie Palliser, lying there, and there also, and there, and up on the shelf there, and slowly charring on the glowing element. Pieces of Jean-Marie scattered like roadkill across the kitchenette, in the room at the lodging house. I put her back together in my mind with one exception. Her head to the lower portion of her neck was gone; a conspicuous absence if ever there was one. I coughed and lit a cigarette to rid me of the stench of warm blood and other bodily fluids.                        
 He had killed her right there in the kitchenette. She was nude with no sign of restraint visible, on the clear parts of her pale flesh. Blood still dripped from the bench, a shiny black pool of blood looking like an expanding hole in the linoleum.  
 I guessed that’s where the fucker had rested the head, on the bench, while he finished playing with the rest of the dead broad’s young body. I had to push the image of her away and it wouldn’t budge. I felt a nauseous growing horror creep up my body like a bad trip. I was shit-scared for the first time in my professional career as a cop.
I heard movement in the hallway outside the kitchen area. I ducked to the ground, scanning the room as I snapped the snubnose from my ankle holster.                                                          
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! My chest heaved, as the backdoor slammed shut, I had just missed him.                                                                                                  
I sprang from the bloodied floor, pain exploding up the length of my spine, and burst out the swinging screendoor at the rear of the building. I busted my face pretty good on the side of a head-high clothesline as I ran across the back yard. I went down hard, my face pissing blood like a geyser, and fired from the ground two quick shots at the back of a black-hooded figure bursting through the hedge. I glimpsed a woman’s decapitated head, bobbing by his side, the long bloodied hair gripped in the clenched fist of Caleb Cunningham, as he disappeared away into the black night.                                                                                                                  
I lay there breathless, the pain in my lower back unbearable so that I couldn’t even feel the gushing wound in my cheek. And then I ended up back in hospital, lying in that damned same bed in a cast from armpit to knee, thinking of Jean-Marie Palliser, as if one might think of a jigsaw puzzle missing a few pieces.                                                                                             
Laying there in that stark white hospital room, I started thinking of all the ways I wanted to kill Caleb Cunningham. The blank dead eyes bored into my memory, like two pits of oil, where the fires of hell slowly smoldered. This was the second time I had caught up with Cunningham and I was flat on my back, mortally injured once again. This time I would have to wear a back brace permanently and be consigned to light duties. I was fucked if I was gonna be a desk jockey. The drugs they started giving me did their job and I knew I could get a continuous supply if I needed one. It took time and a lot of thinking and planning and expectation. I firmly believed towards the end of my stay at the hospital, that Cunningham was watching me, plotting against me in a similar fashion. And then Caleb’s ex-shrink, Dr Morrison, walked in and I forget all about Jean-Marie Palliser and Caleb Cunningham, for a few minutes.
Great stuff William! Can't wait to read "Blood Trail"! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. 
If the excerpt above has you eager to read more of William's work, make sure you click HERE to enter to win a free ebook copy of his first book "Blood Related"! The giveaway is at the bottom of my review of that book - a book I highly recommend.
Twitter - @williamcook666
Interview with Dale Eldon on The Eldon Blog

Monday, July 2, 2012

BLOOD RELATED, by William Cook
A fellow author who pulls off the bald look better than me, with an insatiable appetite for the macabre. An author who is making his mark in the horror world, William Cook.

So William, as a new fan of yours, I would like to ask you, what inspired you to write your novel, BLOOD RELATED?

Hi. Well, I’ve always been a fan of the Slasher/Psychological Thriller genre, in movies and books. I grew up watching movies like Maniac, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and reading authors like Bloch, Dahl, Ellroy, King etc. It’s another form of horror – it’s the human horror, without the supernatural occurrences, usually involving a large carving knife!

Which is essentially what Blood Related is, a Psychological Thriller/Crime Fiction novel, with serious doses of depictions of things of a horrific nature. Although, I admit, there are supernatural elements at work in subtle ways throughout the book. Hope you spot ‘em. So in a roundabout way, I was inspired to write Blood Related because I always wanted to write one (a psychological thriller) after I read Robert Bloch’s book – Psycho. The other consideration was that my fast approaching fortieth birthday kicked me into high gear, as I had sworn most of my adult life that I was going to write a novel before I turned 40, or pack it away and stay a reader.

Who inspires you, as a person and as an author?

I try to inspire myself, which may sound a bit precocious, but I don’t like to admit that it’s really my nearest and dearest. As a writer however, my inspiration is drawn largely from my trips to the local bookstores, new and used. The books and the words within, that inspire me most, probably come from Charles Bukowski – I love his dark wit and profundity, when I get stuck with words I read him and he inspires me to write. Stephen King is another. So I guess as a writer, other writers who are at the top of their game in what they do, whether it be Splatterpunk, Bizarro, Steampunk, or Guro Manga, and who give me the chills, I admire what they do and how they do it.

What inspired you to write horror? 
I’ve always been a morbid bastard with an unhealthy interest in the macabre side of life. I loved comics when I was a kid and I migrated from 2000AD to Eerie and Creepy comics which fascinated me, then on to Poe, Bradbury, World War II, and possible Nuclear Armageddon. I was freaked out by the whole concept of possible nuclear war after seeing that movie, ‘The Day After.’ Nightmares for months . . . and then the horror came.

What kind of stories are you cooking up for the near future?

I’m pretty busy actually so it’s pull-finger time and roll up the sleeves. I’m seriously considering having a go at self-publishing a collection of verse and a collection of short fiction illustrated by talented artist Joseph Myers. I’m also working on a sequel to Blood Related over the next year and I’m co-writing a book or two with True Crime writer RJ Parker. I also design book covers and I have been pretty busy on Photoshop lately. But mainly more dark stuff to look forward to :)

William, it was great having you here!

Thanks for having me Dale – cheers to your readers too.


Follow him on Twitter - @williamcook666

Member of the Australian Horror Writers Association and the Horror Blogger Alliance


Book = http://bloodrelated.wordpress/

Writing =

Interview with Katie Doherty and Black Sunday Magazine
Writing the Killer Novel - An Interview with William Cook 
Please meet William Cook, a very talented writer and artist and all round awesome guy. Here is my interview with him that I conducted for issue 3 of Black Sunday Zine. Enjoy... 

  1. When did you realize you had a talent for art and writing?

I have always been interested in art and have spent most of my life doodling and illustrating. My writing has been more of a recent pastime but is quickly consuming most of my time. My first novel, ‘Blood Related,’ has just been published and is available on Amazon so I must be heading in the right direction hopefully. Available here:

2. Tell me a bit about your background, where you grew up, did you love/hate school?

I grew up in a small city called Wellington in New Zealand and spent most of my youth immersed in heavy metal culture and other illicit activities. I went to a catholic boys school and hated it, as I was a practicing Atheist/Satanist (very confused) at the time. Being the %1 made me a target for haters but also for like-minded friends, which suited me fine. Despite hating high school, when I hit 30 I decided to do a BA in Literature and Art and really enjoyed it, going on to do Honors. Aside from the extra education, I’ve done a bit of everything from construction labor, making Rat Poison and Hydrochloric Pool Cleaner, to working on Prawn trawlers in the Gulf Of Carpenteria, to teaching English in South Korea and running my own decorating company. Still trying to land that dream job.

1st Edition Cover
2nd Edition re-release cover

3. Who or what influences your art and written work the most? (This can be other artists, works of literature, movies etc)

I am influenced by my own nightmares mostly but I have a bunch of favorite artists that I like. People like Robert Elrod, Joe Myers, Mark Riddick, Danielle Tunstall, Alan M Clark, Danger, James Jean, Chad Ward, HR Giger, Jeffrey Harris, Francis Bacon, and so on. A lot of the ideas I get for my horror stories come from visual imagery from artists, true crime stories, news paper articles and the internet. The genre of Horror in all its various formats influences the majority of my dark work, both written and drawn.

4. Who would you most like to meet? Alive or dead.

I think I would most like to meet Stephen King if I could. I really enjoy his books and think he is an interesting bastard. The other writer I would have loved to meet was Jim Thompson, but he’s dead so I guess I’ll have to wait ‘til I get to hell!

5. Are you an artist/writer full time?

My day job is a caregiver to my two preschool kids and I write and draw in the evening. I would love to be able to write and illustrate full-time but I think I’m a few years away from that dream.

6. Who is your favorite artist and/or writer and why?
I am a big fan of Charles Bukowski, whenever I need a good laugh or to feel better about my own life I dip into his short stories and poems. I really like Ann Rule true crime books and Stephen King again for fiction in general. My favorite artist is Les Edwards – an amazing horror and fantasy artist who has done some of the best illustrations in the business.


Interview with JB Sullivan for In The Spotlight
It is with absolute pleasure that I present to you an interview with an outstanding writer and artist, William Cook. For a long time now I have been a fan of his artwork; I discovered him a few years ago while surfing the net and have kept tabs on him since. Recently however, I found him on a social networking site and we have become friends. When I found out he was releasing a novel, I knew I had to be the one to interview him. So here he is. The one, the only William Cook!
Introduce yourself, William.

My name is William Cook and I'm a writer from New Zealand. I also illustrate in my spare time and have done a few book covers and other work. I have had a few short stories and poetry previously published but Blood Related is my first novel, due to be released by Angelic Knight Press on November the 15th. I write mainly in the Horror/Thriller genre but also have a lifelong interest in poetry and the classics. [official author/book site]
Black Bed Sheet Books [publisher] [private lit. related blod] [poetry site]

What is it you do?

I write and illustrate when I can and look after two pre-schoolers when I can't.

Tell the readers about your novel, Blood Related.

Blood Related is a serial-killer/crime novel told in a first-person narrative style from the killer's point-of-view. Guy N Smith described it as a "thought provoking thriller," Mark Edward Hall called it a "terrifying psychological thriller," so I guess it is primarily a thriller novel although a few of my readers describe it as Horror fiction.
Without giving too much away, the lead character is Caleb Samael Cunningham, a diabolical serial-killer with an inherited psychopathology. Caleb is a disturbed young man whose violent father is a suspected serial killer and mother, an insane alcoholic. After his Father's suicide, Cunningham's disturbing fantasy-life becomes reality, as he begins his killing spree in earnest. His identical twin brother Charlie is to be released from an asylum and all hell is about to break loose, when the brothers combine their psychopathic talents. Eventually stepping out from the shadows of his murderous forebears, Caleb puts in motion his own diabolical plan to reveal himself and his 'art' to the world. He's a true aesthete, an artist of death. His various 'installations' have not received the status he feels they deserve, so Caleb is expanding his 'canvas.'

What inspired you to write?

BR took five years to write and it was a long time coming. I have always been writing in some form or another since I was a teenager and this is my first novel. I always wanted to write a novel since I began writing and this experience has completely blown away any misconceptions I had about being a published writer. My inspiration was fed mainly by my admiration for other writers and what they had produced.

Where does your inspiration come from?

The initial period of creating the 'world' and the characters of Blood Related, were inspired by all the other books (both fiction and non-fiction) I had read over the years that dealt with psychological terror. Movies have had a big influence on the way I 'see' a story develop in my mind's eye before I put it on paper. So, I would say that I have been inspired to write Blood Related by what I have seen and read in a similar vein over the last twenty years. The fact that there are hundreds of these cultural artefacts out there motivated me to write my own version, essentially a variation on a theme, but I have tried to make it a variation terrifying enough to scare whoever reads it! There was a lot of research involved with this book and astute readers should be able to identify various nods to the horror genre and to the macabre world of Serial Killer culture, that is to say, where my 'inspiration' comes from, in regards to Blood Related.

What is the best thing about writing?

Completing the work and being able to read it and feel satisfied that it is good enough to share with other people.

What is the worst thing about writing?

Not being able to take a story where you want it to go, unless of course if one of those 'happy accidents' happen and a whole new story opens up. It is also a very time consuming and slightly lonely experience that needs its own space and time, which is usually hard fought for, with two pre-schoolers and a wife that deserve equal (if not more) attention.

What specific goal would you like to achieve with your writing?

Ultimately I would like to be able to write full time and support my family with a decent income generated from having good book sales but, more realistically, I would like to be able to write something that will be read and enjoyed by people in the next century.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers?

I would like to encourage them to read Blood Related of course and to check out my website for a list of other recommended titles within the genre.

If you could give any advice to a fellow writer, what would it be?

Keep writing and don't give up. Remember, not everyone will like what you write, but there are people out there who will read what you have written because they think it's worth reading. I'm sure it's probably been said before by greater writers than myself, but for what it's worth, here's my formula for writing: 5% inspiration, 45% motivation and 50% perseverance.

What was the most influential and/or life changing story you have ever read?

Probably the main works that I have read that have influenced me the most when it comes to writing are Stephen King's 'On Writing' and the HWA's handbook 'On Writing Horror' edited by Mort Castle. James Ellroy's 'Killer on the Road' made me realize that great books don't always need to be classic in nature, just well written and different enough in order to interest the reader. 'Psycho' by Robert Bloch is probably one of my favorite novels, because of the way it is written and because of the profound influence this work has had on what is commonly referred to as the Horror genre.

Thank you very much, William. I wish you good luck with your book and for the future.
Interview with Cindy Keen Reynders at Saucy Lucy Wisdom
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
An Interview with Horror Writer, William Cook

 To purchase "Blood Related," Click here...

Today I’m interviewing fellow Angelic Knight Press author William Cook, a very talented writer and illustrator from New Zealand. His novel, “Blood Related” has just hit the shelves.  I downloaded a Kindle version, and let me tell you, the writing is powerful. It starts off with a bang, and never stops. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more!
Here is a short synopsis of the story:

Meet Caleb Samael Cunningham, a diabolical serial-killer with an inherited psychopathology, passed down via a blood-soaked genealogy. Caleb is a disturbed young man whose violent father is a suspected serial killer and mother, an insane alcoholic. After his father’s suicide, Cunningham’s disturbing fantasy-life becomes reality, as he begins his killing spree in earnest. His identical twin brother Charlie is to be released from an asylum and all hell is about to break loose, when the brothers combine their deviant talents. Blood Related is a serial-killer/crime novel told in a first-person narrative style from the killer’s (Caleb’s) point-of-view. 

Cindy: Since he is quite an accomplished artist, William did his own cover art. How neat is that? William, what were you thinking about when you designed your artwork for Blood Related? William: I didn’t actually do the cover art but I did come up with the concept. When I saw the cover for Matt Hult’s great book ‘Husk,’ I instantly loved the look and asked him who did the photography. He put me on to the talented Danielle Tunstall ( who had an image that screamed at me when I saw it and I knew I had to have it for the cover. She agreed and has been a great advocate since. I wanted a cover that would be eye-catching and make a statement, and with Danielle and Angelic Knight Press’s help, I think we’ve achieved that.

Cindy: And it is, indeed, a great cover. So you live in New Zealand, where exactly?
William: I live in Wellington – the small wind-blown capital city of New Zealand
Cindy: Living in windy Cheyenne, Wyo. I totally identify with how it's like living in a windy city. The tree in my front yard leans permanently to the east, the way the wind has bent it. How long have you been writing, and what inspired you the most in your career (s)?
William: I have been writing weird stories ever since I was a kid. My first published works were poems in various literary journals in NZ and a few in the States. Back in 1996 I published a collection of verse titled ‘Journey: The Search for Something’ and had the occasional poem and short story published online, but nothing really of note until last year when Lee Pletzers from Triskaideka Books accepted my story ‘The Devil Inside’ for the 2010 Masters of Horror Anthology. I have always loved the Horror genre and dark literature, so this really inspired me to focus my writing on what I loved rather than what I thought other people wanted to read and it has finally started to pay off.  ‘Blood Related’ has been a labor of love and took me roughly six years to write and it wasn’t until I changed day-jobs that I had the time to bring it all together as my debut novel.
Cindy: Six years! Wow, I admire your dedication! How do you picture your writing career 10 years from now? What would you like to accomplish?
William: I envisage having a publishable novel ready for submission at the end of each following year. I am currently writing a sequel to ‘Blood Related,’ another extreme Horror novel, and a collection of short Horror/dark fiction. Ten years from now I would like to have accompanying screenplays based on my novel/s, completed and circulating.  I would also like to write a novel that wasn’t Horror fiction, as I have an interest in ‘meta-fiction’ via Updike, Danielewski, Foer etc and children’s books also.
Cindy: Very lofty goals, William, and I'm certain you will have great success with your endeavors. I'm wondering, what do you want readers to learn after reading your book?
William: I’m not imparting any wisdom with ‘Blood Related,’ I just want to scare people. The thing I love about the Horror and Thriller genre is that a good story will get your pulse racing and your heart thumping. I feel it is the best medium to create a world where the reader feels alive because they are experiencing fear of some sort. Sounds sadistic I know, but I find personally that no other genre gives me the thrills I seek when I immerse myself in a fictional world. Hence the reciprocation, from writer to reader. John Paul Allen (, who was kind enough to give a great quote for ‘Blood Related,’ suggests that it is “a horrific crime-filled tale of terror that makes us understand why we lock our doors at night.” I guess if anything, readers could catch a glimpse of the monster that dwells within us all and reinforce their own fears! ‘Blood Related’ is essentially about that most inhumane creature of all, the male human!  However, in saying that, the novel is definitely not a moral play and is intended purely as dark entertainment. 
Cindy: Readers will definitely be entertained and thrilled when they read Blood Related, that's for sure! It's already gotten two five-star reviews.That is awesome. What is your next project?
William: My next project is a sequel to ‘Blood Related,’ tentatively titled ‘Blood Trail.’ This work will deal more with the character of Detective Ray Truman, as he struggles with his own demons and his obsessive pursuit of Caleb Cunningham, the main character in ‘Blood Related.' I have a collection of short fiction that I am compiling, which I hope to find a home for early 2012 and I in the early stages of converting ‘Blood Related’ into a screeplay.
Cindy: If you could have written any famous best seller, which one would it be and why?
William: Hypothetically, I guess ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King would be the one I wished I had penned. I have a sprawling WIP manuscript in the bottom of my filing cabinet that I have been working on for the last ten years, it is about a dystopian world that is like a cross between ‘The Stand,’ Kenneth Patchen’s ‘Albion Moonlight’ and Bunyan’s ‘ Pilgrim’s Progress.’ Without ‘The Stand’, and that horrible movie ‘The Day After’ (it made me paranoid about Nuclear Armageddon from an early age!), I probably wouldn’t have started writing this exercise in futility. As it is and will be, it will never shape up alongside Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ – despite being an epic production in its own right. I think every writer aspires to pen that ‘ground-breaking’ novel and I’m no different in that respect.
Cindy: Any parting wisdom you want to leave readers with?
William: I wasted about a year trying to get my book published via traditional publishers and it was only through my participation in the Facebook Masters of Horror group that I started to consider the independent press. Blaze McRob started Angelic Knight Press with Yvonne Bishop earlier this year, both are great writers and really nice people to boot, so when they accepted my submission I was really happy that I had changed tact and become involved with the dynamic world of Independent Publishing. As a debut novelist, I don’t really feel in a position to offer advice to readers, but I would say that having a ‘thick skin’ and a certain degree of tenacity is crucial if you want to be a published writer. My perseverance has paid off and I’ve been privileged to have authors I look up to, give me feedback on my book. People like Jonathan Nasaw, Guy N. Smith, Laird Barron, Mark Edward Hall, John Paul Allen, and Nicholas Grabowsky, have all been kind enough to read and review my work – something I would never have believed possible until now. If the readers out there would like more information on ‘Blood Related’, including bibliographical and background information on the extensive research and reading I did while creating the novel, please visit:

Cindy: Thank you, William, for coming over to Saucy Lucy Wisdom and letting me interview you. Good luck with Blood Related, and we'll all be watching for more great books from you!
Interview with William Cook, Artist and Writer
Meet William, he wrote Devil Inside, a chilling story contained within the Masters of Horror Anthology:

My name is William Cook and I am a writer from Wellington, New Zealand.

My short story, ‘Devil Inside,’ was inspired by a common childhood fear of the Boogeyman. Memories of leaping onto the bed as a kid to avoid what I imagined was lurking beneath sparked the idea for my story. Someone said to me recently that ‘real horror is human in origin,’ not wanting to relinquish the grip of my imagination fully I have combined this notion with the nightmare of suburbia, seen through the eyes of a boy on the brink of manhood.

I wrote my story over the course of two evenings especially for the MOH Anthology. Decades of wild flights of imagination and personal fears have prepared me for an expedition into the literary landscape of Horror. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the hardcopy version of the Anthology and saving it for a stormy night; each story will be savored individually and enjoyed as a whole upon completion. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed from what I have seen already.

I have just recently started writing Horror fiction. The scope and depth of the genre allows for unlimited flights of imagination and material. Aside from being a great way to exorcize (and exercise) personal demons, there is something tantalizing about creating a new thought or image that has the potential to invade a reader’s dreams and get the adrenaline pumping. It sounds idealistic but I believe that good writing should transport the reader to another realm in order to make the world, upon return, a better place to be. In my view well-crafted Horror fiction is the ultimate literary antidote for humdrum reality.

I have been writing short fiction since the age of thirteen, this is my first published Horror story. I write part-time, whenever I can in between my duties as a full-time stay-at-home dad. I write to see my words on the page, to make the imaginary tangible. Hopefully others will like what they read and get some enjoyment from my writing.

I am currently putting the finishing touches on a crime/horror novel manuscript, ready for submission in April. It is a story about a family of killers whose legacy snowballs down through the generations until its eventual realization, as seen through the eyes of the remaining family member. Essentially it is a serial killer novel with a new twist on the genre that will hopefully avoid tired cliches. I also do freelance illustration work in my spare time and maintain a blog or two. To view other examples of my writing, see my Amazon page.

Post Script:
Click on the image to purchase Devil Inside for only $0.99

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