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Let’s Get Lit!: Ward Parker talks horror, writing and his new book

Welcome to “Let’s Get Lit!” on Here we will chat with an author about their work and their favorite things! This edition of LGL will feature Ward Parker, author of The Teratologist! We talk about his latest novel, writing and his favorite horror influences!

Meg Bonney: Your new book, The Teratologist was released this year. What can you tell us about it?

Ward Parker: The Teratologist is the start of a new historical supernatural thriller series set in Gilded Age Florida. It’s about a physician, Frank Follett, who encounters monsters—in every meaning of the word. In the first book he tries to find a serial killer who kidnapped a young patient. This patient channels the voices of the dead, including Follett’s wife who died in childbirth. So, he’s devastated when the patient is kidnapped. Along the way, he discovers supernatural forces that challenge his scientific mind and threaten his life.

MB: What is a teratologist exactly?

WP: A teratologist is a medical specialist who studies physical abnormalities, like the Elephant Man. “Teratologist” comes from the Greek word for “monster.”

MB: Very cool! Mark Twain is a character in your book. What made you decide to use a real author in your story?

WP: A lot of historical novels have famous people showing up in them. Think of Theodore Roosevelt in The Alienist. I researched to see if any famous people stayed at the Hotel Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach, Florida, during the time period of my book—people other than the robber barons and super-rich like the Vanderbilts and Astors who aren’t that interesting to me. Sure enough, I discovered that Mark Twain visited in 1902. He’s a favorite author of mine and embodied that historical period so well. In fact, he’s the one who coined the term “the Gilded Age.” He also dabbled a bit in spiritualism, so he fits right in with the paranormal stuff in my novel. Best of all, he’s a vehicle to provide a bit of comic relief now and then in a dark tale.

MB: This book has a spooky, horror element to it. What is your favorite horror movie or book?

WP: I’m glad you’re not asking for a list because I could go on for hours! Favorite movie—The Exorcist. Favorite book—Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Both of these came out ages ago, but they scared the crap out of the younger me and were formative in my love for horror. And I have to add that Lovecraft has always had an influence on me.

MB: What is your writing ritual like?

WP: Not much of a ritual except to get in front of the keyboard as early as possible during the day when my brain is sharp and my subconscious is still partly in control. My subconscious mind is a better writer than I am.

MB: There will be more books in this series, correct?

WP: Definitely. Mark Twain and other historical figures will make appearances and Dr. Follett will travel further afield and encounter new monsters. And there will always be references to contemporaneous historical events.

MB: What are the top 3 songs on your playlist right now?

WP: This will make me sound like a real nerd, but my writing playlist consists of classical music while I’m working on The Teratologist. It puts me in another era. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak. Otherwise, I’m listening to music that’s almost as old, but not quite: ‘80s bands like REM and The Smiths, and some emo stuff like Dashboard Confessional.

MB: What author would you say is your biggest inspiration and/or influence?

WP: To be honest, I’d have to say Hemingway. He was a big influence on me in high school and college. I wanted to become him. He was such a larger-than-life character and so passionate about the craft. As it turns out, I’m not at all like him as a writer or as a person. But his ghost stands behind me and makes me feel guilty when I become overly sentimental or trite. Or verbose.

MB: What are you working on now?

WP: I’m deep into the second book of The Teratologist series. And the second book of my Florida noir series should be coming out soon.

MB: What is the best writing advice you’ve been given?

WP: Thanks for the opportunity to name drop! Years ago, I was at a signing by the late, great Ray Bradbury. At the time, I was writing literary stuff and really struggling to stay motivated. I asked Mr. Bradbury if he had any advice. He did, and it was simple: Write what you honestly enjoy reading most. So, I stopped trying to write what I thought would impress people. I turned to writing what I read for fun: horror and crime fiction. And it’s been a blast!

MB: Thank you so much for chatting!

WP: Thanks for having me!

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