Every indie creator hopes to make it big some day, but with limited marketing budgets and the lack of a big publisher/production company backing their projects, success is often a distant dream. Enter Felix Blackwell, exception to the rule. His best selling novel Stolen Tongues was originally a story he came up with for the Reddit forum “NoSleep”, a project he had no intention of publishing in book form. Stolen Tongues went viral, and so did Blackwell.
There is something to be said for the kinship that many horror indie creators share. The community is (generally) extremely supportive; those who’ve found success are often open to conversation with anyone brave enough to reach out with questions. My communication with Blackwell began when he posted in the “Books of Horror” Facebook group looking for fellow authors who may be interested in providing a blurb for his forthcoming hardcover release of Stolen Tongues. That’s how generous he is. He knows that he can help other indie authors get noticed by including their reviews in his already popular book. To my shock and delight, he agreed to write a blurb for one of my books, too!
I asked him for this interview for two reasons: thousands of people are excitedly anticipating Blackwell’s upcoming prequel to Stolen Tongues (coming later in 2022), and our Grimoire of Horror readers seriously need to get on board. Secondly, Blackwell’s fans will enjoy getting to know the man behind the book they’ve championed to the top, and how thankful he is for their support.
KDJ: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me! As a popular horror author who still works 9-5 I’m sure you’re a busy person. How do you make time for everything you want and need to do? Do you ever get “down time”?
FB: My schedule revolves entirely around a jog in the morning and a walk at night. This is my “me” time for coming up with music or story ideas. During the day I work in tech, and in the evenings I either write, make music, or do something with my wife. Lately, we’ve been really into sci-fi movies. On weekends I try to spend at least half a day in the woods, and the other half working on either my current book or music project.
KDJ: We all know you to be a horror author. What kind of music do you write? Do you play any instruments? Do you have any musical YouTube videos we might be able to find?
FB: I play guitar and bass, and my band is a combination of A Perfect Circle, Tool, and Deftones. I am so heavily inspired by Billy Howerdel’s playstyle that I’m actually a little scared that if he ever hears the record he will send me a nastygram. His music has had a tremendous impact on my life. We don’t have anything online yet because we are still in the studio recording. But I expect the album to be out some time in late Spring. I haven’t decided if I’m going to attach the project to Felix Blackwell or to a pen name, since I’m not usually a fan of cross-contaminating projects of different mediums. However, if readers want to know what we sound like, they can check out Orestes and The Hollow by APC, The Patient by Tool, and Phantom Bride by Deftones.
KDJ: You obviously love the woods, yet they are a haunted place in your stories. Have you ever seen something amongst the trees yourself? Do you personally find the woods a scary place to explore, or is making them scary in your stories a challenge?
FB: Forests make up a big part of all of my writing because of how many different emotions they can convey. Forests can be enchanting and mystical, bright and lovely, or dark and terrifying. They can be sunlit and teeming with color, or gray and thick with mist. In both novels [Stolen Tongues and In the Devil’s Dreams], the woods are a place of both solace and terror. I think the most important thing about them for me personally is that they act as a place for quiet personal reflection and escape from the noisy world.
KDJ: Stolen Tongues has become wildly popular this year. Have you had many readers commenting on the parallels between the subject matter, the idea of an unknown entity having the ability to invade us while we are isolated, and Covid-19 pandemic? (ie. the pandemic is leaving a lot of us feeling isolated and hunted by an unknown/unseen monster)
FB: I haven’t had anyone make this comparison to me until now, surprisingly. When I wrote Stolen Tongues I was thinking a lot about the concepts of the Uncanny Valley and pareidolia. I wanted to make a monster that was difficult to understand, and whose motives were mysterious and complex.
KDJ: Stolen Tongues is a particularly creepy story. There must be an interesting background here; what was your inspiration?
FB: The inspiration for Stolen Tongues came from two parrots I knew that would talk when no one was around. My partner (whom I later married) had a propensity to talk in her sleep, and one night while listening to a particularly creepy conversation she was having in her dream, I imagined a parrot-like creature imitating a human in order to extract information from sleeping prey.
KDJ: In the Devil’s Dreams, your second book (published in 2019) explores similar themes: a wife with a deteriorating health condition, a secluded cabin, a monster in the woods. Is there a personal connection or history to these themes?
FB: I never realized how many similarities there were between my two novels until now! I suppose my writing is influenced by the people closest to me. In the Devil’s Dreams is sort of a “horror self-help” manual for analyzing our darkest fears and inhibitions, and letting them go. That story was inspired by a particularly horrible nightmare I had in 2008, in which a demon broke into my house and sat at the edge of my bed, urging me to take my own life. The dream awakened me to the reality that I was in a very unhealthy relationship and needed to get out of it right away.
KDJ: In your bio, you explain that you have “densely metaphorical nightmares”. The dream you just described is horrifying! I’m curious to know more about your dreams. Do you lucid dream on a regular basis? Do you “dream travel” or OBE? I’ve found that extremely creative people have unusual dream abilities and would like to know about yours!
FB: I’ve only had one dream that I’d call lucid, and I don’t do any dream-traveling or anything like the kid in the movie Insidious. But I do have pretty regular nightmares, and most of them get turned into books or short stories. I dream a lot of surreal places (which are probably inspired by my boundless love of Dali’s work), and of strange creatures (probably inspired by the Silent Hill series).
KDJ: A lot of my questions are for the benefit of other indie authors hoping for success. What was the most important step that you took in the beginning to get your work out there?
FB: I did basically nothing to get my work out into the world. I self-published two novels and did zero advertising; the only reason anyone ever found them was because one of them was originally a short story series on reddit that randomly became popular. I wish I had more advice to give but my success was utterly random. There are so many better writers out there waiting to be discovered in the same way. However, I do think replying to readers and giving them personal attention is a good way to build and maintain your base.
KDJ: Books of Horror (Facebook group) has a huge Felix Blackwell fan base; your work is brought up there almost daily. What would you like to tell those readers who are praising Stolen Tongues and urging others to read it?
FB: I suppose I’d want anyone reading Stolen Tongues to know that it is somewhat of an academic effort to recast Indigenous people in fiction away from their most common stereotypes, and instead to depict them as complex, flawed, and heterogenous people with varying worldviews / opinions / backgrounds / experiences.
KDJ: Do you have plans to introduce In the Devil’s Dreams and The Cold People and Other Fairy Tales From Nowehere in these groups, or do you leave it to the fans to find your work and promote it themselves, organically? Are they as creepy as Stolen Tongues?
FB: I never advertise my own work in public Facebook groups, but I do thank readers for checking them out when they do. In the Devil’s Dreams is always going to have a far more niche audience than Stolen Tongues because of its unusual narrative and subject matter; I don’t necessarily think people who loved Stolen Tongues would love ITDD in the same way. As for my short stories [posted on the reddit forum NoSleep], I think “Glue Girl,” “My Uncle had Brain Bubbles,” “There’s Always Time for Christmas!” and “There is no such thing as Area 51” are pretty damn creepy. In The Cold People I think Motherbird and Icebreaker I and II are the best!
KDJ: What story (including anything you’ve ever written) are you most proud of/like the most, and why?
FB: I’m very proud of In the Devil’s Dreams because the writing process made me realize two important things: you can complete complex projects if you stick to them, and you can overcome grief and negativity through positive acts of creativity. I’m also super proud of the forthcoming prequel to Stolen Tongues, which is hitherto unnamed…
KDJ: I know that you are an advocate for indie authors and enjoy helping them further their career. Was there anyone who helped you in a meaningful way in the beginning?
FB: The YouTubers Be.Busta, The Dark Somnium, MrCreepyPasta, and others were very helpful in generating attention on my work thanks to their high-quality narration videos. But I think my The Cold People coauthor Colin J. Northwood and my wife have been my greatest supporters and advocates, and deserve the lion’s share of credit for personal advocacy of my writing during the “I don’t know if I can finish this” stage of every book and story.
KDJ: What would you like readers to know about you, your published work, and your works in progress?
FB: I’d like my readers to know a few things – SPOILER ALERT: the infamous cellar was intentionally unaddressed in Stolen Tongues because it plays a small role in the forthcoming prequel novel. That novel probably won’t be out until late 2022 at the earliest. And outside of horror, I’ve got a fantasy novel and a thriller novel in the works.
KDJ: What would you like other indie authors to know about your journey as a writer?
FB: I think the most important thing I can say to other indie authors about the journey of writing is to just keep writing, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Write because it is your calling, and because your soul demands it. Do it for catharsis, not for financial gain. The great joy of writing is finishing the project and not hating it. A greater joy still is having others read it and enjoy it as well. As for the money, let that be the bonus, not the goal. Also, make time to write. All real hobbies require a great sacrifice of time. Do it because it’s worth doing.
KDJ: I could ask a hundred more questions but I don’t want to push my luck! I’m curious now about your forthcoming album and how I’m going to find it, and am heading over to Amazon to order In the Devil’s Dreams and Cold People right now. You are an inspiration to those of us trying to make it as an indie creator, and your success is well deserved. Thank you for spending this time with me, and for sharing your personal thoughts with our readers.
To read more about Felix Blackwell or to purchase his books, visit his website at https://felixblackwell.com/.
Kate’s love of all things dark began as a child and deepened when she realized what being an adult meant. She was born with a pencil in her hand and loves nothing more than writing horrific stories to tantalize her inner demons. Kate lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada with her husband and her boys, stirring up trouble wherever she can.