G.A. Minton has been a fan of science fiction and horror since his early days, but he’d never had a desire to write his own story. That was until he was rear-ended by a drunk driver in a life-threatening injury that left him suffering from a closed-head injury. In this exclusive interview, G.A. Minton talks about how the accident changed his life as well as his upcoming horror novel Antitheus.
Redital: Tell us a little about your upbringing and where you grew up…
G.A Minton: My father was a career Air Force man, so we moved around quite frequently. Though born in Texas, I spent my early childhood growing up in a small town located in northern California. From there, we moved to Mississippi and then back to Texas while I was still in school. Having spent time living in various areas across America, I’ve learned much from my exposure to a wide variety of cultures.
R: What were some of the Sci-fi and horror movies that left a lasting impression on you?
G.A: From my earliest recollections as a young child, I have always loved the genres of horror and science fiction. I’ve seen so many amazing Sci-fi and Horror movies over the years that it’s hard to remember them all.
Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, War of the Worlds, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, Mysterious Island, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, A Nightmare on Elm Street, From Dusk Till Dawn, Alien(s), The Exorcist, Halloween, The Thing, Hellraiser, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, Planet of the Apes, The Shining, RoboCop, The Fifth Element, Blade Runner, The Matrix, Terminator, Predator, IT, and so many others are only just a few of the great movies that have left a lasting impression on me.
R: We have heard about the unfortunate accident that injured you. In your bio it says that after suffering damage to your brain, you were suddenly dedicated to writing. Would you say you had no interest in writing before this accident occurred?
G.A: That is absolutely true. Prior to my accident, I had neither the desire nor the ability to write anything of a creative nature. Though my “acquired savant syndrome” sounds like something conjured up from the mind of Stephen King, it is nonetheless a fact.
The definition of a savant is “a person who does not have normal intelligence but who has very unusual mental abilities that other people do not have.” Savant syndrome “is a condition in which a person with a mental disability, such as an autism spectrum disorder, demonstrates profound and prodigious capacities or abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal.” I do know that I don’t have savant syndrome, because I am not autistic, and my IQ has been measured at 161.
Another form of savantism, known as acquired savant syndrome, is attributed to “a person who acquires prodigious capabilities or skills following dementia, a head injury or severe blow to the head, or other disturbance.” According to medical studies, acquired savant syndrome is an extremely rare condition, affecting very few people in the world. This is apparently what happened to me. I consider it to be a gift (though at the time, I didn’t think so), therefore, as long as I can retain this newfound ability, I will continue to write—especially since I do have a passion for it!
R: That’s an incredible gift to acquire. Would you say acquiring this gift also improved the technical aspects of your writing compared to before the injury?
G.A: As far as I know, my grammar and vocabulary skills have basically remained the same since my car accident. I have always had a good command of the English language, so the brain injury I sustained doesn’t appear to have altered any of the writing or grammatical abilities I learned in my college English and Literature classes.
I do believe though, that my writing skills have improved since my accident, given the fact that I read more now and I’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of writing two novels. Like other authors, I continue to learn about the nuances of writing and what publishers and literary agents are looking for in a manuscript. I generally believe that, all things being equal, the storyline in a fiction novel is more important than the writing, especially to its reader.
What did change as a result of my brain injury is the ability I acquired to come up with creative ideas for complicated plots—an amazing proficiency that I never had before. I have no idea how these imaginative ideas are formulated or where they come from, so I just go with the flow and incorporate them into my novels.
R: Tell us how the idea of Antitheus came to you…
G.A: After my brain healed from the closed head injury I sustained in the car accident, a number of dark tales spontaneously erupted from my newly-acquired neuronal network. It’s hard to explain or put into words, but these story visions just came to me from out of the blue, much like an epiphany, or something spawned de novo in my mind.
I’ve now amassed a long list of new concepts for tales of the macabre…I only hope that I’ll have the time to write them! Antitheus, like many of my other ideas for stories, appeared to me while writing Trisomy XXI. As soon as I finished penning Trisomy XXI, I immediately started on Antitheus. Like Trisomy XXI, Antitheus was written in a stream of consciousness-like manner, taking me around three months to finish. I use no outlines or notes, and my writing mysteriously flows in a freestyle fashion, starting with chapter one and ending upon completion of the novel. Coincidentally, when I finished writing Trisomy XXI, it ended up with 21 chapters…while the evil Antitheus has 13.
R: You mentioned that you have no outlines or notes. Do you have to reread what you wrote the day before to remind yourself of what you wrote previously?
G.A: Fortunately for me, I’ve been blessed with a great memory bank, whether dealing with short-term, long-term, explicit, or rote memories (except for the short-term memory loss/word recall I experienced from my brain trauma, which luckily returned to normal after several months).
I’m also a perfectionist and somewhat obsessive-compulsive, so after I finish writing a chapter in my novel, I re-read it and make any revisions before penning the next chapter. I don’t think I would enjoy writing as much as I do, if I had to construct an outline or use a writing template for my novels.
For me, it’s all about taking a blob of clay and molding it into something beautiful. I consider my acquired savant syndrome to be a blessing in disguise, considering the sad fact that many closed-head injuries leave their victims with a physical disability or cognitive impairment.
R: What was the biggest challenge you faced during the writing process for Antitheus?
G.A: Antitheus, like Trisomy XXI, is a complicated mystery story, with many twists and turns incorporated into its plot. In order to write a compelling mystery, an author must include a number of strategically-placed clues for its reader to see, without giving away too much information that might compromise the ending.
The narrative has to be carefully written so that the reader’s interest is kept throughout the story, especially if a surprise ending is involved.
R: Do you feel like you changed as an author since writing your last book Trisomy XXI?
G.A: I’ve learned much about the art of writing, along with the other things involved in publishing a book, such as query letters, editing, formats, novel synopsis, blurbs, traditional vs. self-publishing, book reviews, author websites, book trailers, marketing, advertising, and social media, just to mention a few.
Even with the so-called “negatives” associated with writing a book, I still look forward to the fulfilment and excitement experienced while writing my novel and when it’s published.
R: What would you say are the main ingredients of a good horror story?
G.A: The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another.
Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.
Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline.
Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.
Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.
Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in his book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.
Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read. When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other.
A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul.
Buy the book (US)
You can find out more information about G.A. Minton and his books at:
G.A. Minton Author Website
G.A. Minton Author Webpage at World Castle Publishing Website
G.A. Minton Twitter Page
Barnes & Noble link for ANTITHEUS
Goodreads webpage link for ANTITHEUS
ANTITHEUS Book Trailer
—ANTITHEUS by G.A. Minton on Amazon: http://www.amzn.com/B0744XJ11K (Kindle), www.amzn.com/1629897620 (Paperback), or www.amzn.com/1629897647 (Hardcover).
—TRISOMY XXI by G.A. Minton on Amazon: http://www.amzn.com/1629894443 (Paperback) or http://www.amzn.com/B01D3OSZ38 (Kindle).
—G.A. Minton Facebook Pages: https://www.facebook.com/TRISOMYXXI and https://www.facebook.com/GAMinton