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Author Spotlight: Adam-Troy Castro

Was it difficult to write from the point of view of a character with no (or very little) memory or knowledge of the world?

Boring but accurate answer: no.

Are the monsters in “The Totals” driven to do what they do by their natures? In other words, because they’re monstrous and can never fit in or find other work? Or is it because even monsters have to answer to “the man”? Speaking of which, who is the little man with the clipboard?

They’re monsters doing what comes naturally.

And we all have to answer to the guy from corporate.

Although this is a horror story, it’s also quite funny. Do you enjoy blending humor with darker subject matter?

I have done it a few times, notably with my runaway-zombie penis story “From Hell It Came,” and with this year’s “Hide and Shriek,” coming in the anthology Games Creatures Play. I also did the illustrated alphabet book with Johnny Atomic, V Is For Vampire, which is quite horrific and funny, and there’s an awful lot of leavening humor in my Gustav Gloom middle-grade novels.

In “The Totals,” it seems the game is rigged. Closers are given the best territories, and Clutch in particular will always win precisely because he’s been granted the ultimate prize: Oblivion. Did you intend this as a metaphor for real life?

I used to work in sales.

Many writers stick to certain genres and lengths, but you’ve branched out considerably, tackling science fiction, fantasy, comedy, horror, superheroes, middle-grade, and mainstream fiction, in flash, short story, and novel-length formats. Do you have a favorite? Something else you’d like to try? Have you ever had any push-back from fans, agents, or publishers?

This will be the longest answer.

Simplest statement: I get bored, very bored. I like to surprise myself. I like to surprise my readers. I want every story to be different from the story before it. I want to avoid the existence of a “typical” Adam-Troy Castro story. So I don’t just change genres. I change styles: from transparent prose to as lush as I can manage, from real to surreal, from light to appallingly grim.

Horror seems to be a fallback position, really, since at least one third of my short fiction output falls into various categories of that. But there are any number of things I still want to try but haven’t yet. I want to write a comic crime caper, at one point. I want to return to superheroes with a very dark version of that subgenre, at some point. I want to do a sequel to my Stoker nominee “The Shallow End of the Pool,” at some point. I wanna do another zombie story, at some point. I wanna do a heartfelt love story, at some point. I work on lots of different things at one time and they come out in unpredictable order (except when a contract and advance is involved, at which point I feel the pressure to focus).

Publishers haven’t provided me with any carrot-and-stick to be nice and stay in any one category. Readers have, unwittingly. It seems that my Venn diagram of readers involves a number of circles that never intersect at any point, and a lot of the folks who read my horror stories in the early 1990s think that I disappeared off the face of the Earth at the point my science fiction was ascendant. Similarly, a lot of folks who read my lighter Analog-style science fiction are horrified by my darker stuff, and I really do need to keep my middle-grade readers away from some stuff that is clearly not meant for them. There are fans of my Spider-Man trilogy who are upset that I don’t return to the Marvel Universe and fans of my Amazing Race book who are upset that I don’t do another episode guide.

As somebody who follows a number of his favorite writers across genre lines, because they’re good at whatever they do, I sometimes get irritated at readers who only browse certain shelves. But, hey. Everybody’s boat needs to be floated.

What are you working on now?

I have completed work on the Gustav Gloom middle-grade series, which will continue publishing through 2016, and I am currently pitching a couple of young adult works.

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Erika Holt

Erika Holt

Former Nightmare assistant editor Erika Holt lives in Calgary, Alberta, where she writes and edits speculative fiction. Her stories appear in several anthologies including Not Our Kind, What Fates Impose, and Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead. She is also co-editor of two anthologies from EDGE and Absolute XPress: Rigor Amortis, about sexy, amorous zombies, and Broken Time Blues, featuring such oddities as 1920s burlesque dancers and bootlegging chickens. Find her at or on Twitter as @erikaholt.