October 28 – November 3: “Do you like horror?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5As thriller writers, do you like horror? Have you written anything in that genre? This week we’re talking to ITW Members J. T. Patten, Mark Atley, Martin Roy Hill, Marietta Miles and David Simms about all things that go bump in the night! Follow along by scrolling down to the “comments” section below.


David Simms lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, working as a special education teacher, college English instructor, counselor, music therapist, ghost tour guide, book reviewer, and co-foundeder the Killer Thriller/Slushpile Band. He has sold several horror, mystery, and weird short stories to various anthologies. DARK MUSE is his MG/YA crossover that ventures into musical dark fantasy and celebrates the many students who’ve changed his life. FEAR THE REAPER is a thriller about horrors of the eugenics movement in America in 1933.


J. T. Patten” has worked for the intelligence and special operations community in support of national defense and policy. He has a degree in foreign language, a masters in strategic intelligence, graduate studies in counter terrorism from the University of St. Andrews, and numerous expertise certifications in forensics, fraud, and financial crime investigations.


Black Rose Writing published Mark Atley’s debut novel, THE OLYMPIAN, at the end of June 2019. His short story “Amber Alert” won Honorable Mention in a local contest. Recently, Ink and Sword Magazine (Twitter) featured Mark in their December 2018 Crime Issue. Mark holds two degrees in journalism and works as a detective for a suburb of Tulsa, OK. He has overcome learning disabilities and struggled with dyslexia.


Martin Roy Hill is the author of the Linus Schag, NCIS, thrillers, the Peter Brandt thrillers, and the award-winning short story collection DUTY, and EDEN: A Sci-Fi Novella. Martin’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, ALT HIST: The Journal of Historical Fiction and Alternative History, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Crimson Streets, Nebula Rift, Devolution Z, and others. His latest Linus Schag thriller, The Butcher’s Bill, was named 2017 Best Suspense Thriller by the Best Indie Books Awards, the 2017 Clue Award for Mystery and Suspense from the Chanticleer International Book Awards, 2018 First Place for Adult Fiction from the California Author Project, and the 2018 Silver Medal for Thrillers from the Readers Favorite Book Awards.


Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, Marietta Miles currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children. Her shorts and flash can be found in Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama, Hardboiled Wonderland, and Revolt Daily. Her stories have been included in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing and Horrified Press. She is rotating host for Noir on the Radio, Dames in the Dark and a contributor to Do Some Damage Writer’s Blog.


  1. I primarily write mysteries and thrillers, but I consider myself a multi-genre author. My Peter Brandt and Linus Schag, NCIS, series are mystery thrillers. But I have two stand alone novels, EDEN and Polar Melt, which are military sci-fi novels. While I haven’t written a horror novel, I have written and published several horror short stories.

    I’m not an enthusiast of slasher, zombie, or even vampire horror stories (Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend being the exceptions in the latter genre). In college I took a course on the history of horror films. My take-away from that class was that the greatest horror films subtlety play on the internal fears and insecurities most people harbor. In this respect, the type of horror stories I enjoy are novels like Stephen Kings’ It and David Morrell’s The Totem.

    The horror stories I write are usually inspired by existing legends and myths. My most recently published short story, Ghost Ship of the Arctic, was inspired by the true-life story of the Baychimo, a merchant ship trapped in Arctic ice and abandoned in the early 1900s. The Baychimo continued to reappear every few years, floating free but still abandoned, only to disappear again when attempts were made to salvage her. Ghost Ship tells the story of a fictional elderly Inuit man who was the last person to see her before she disappeared for good sometime after 1969 (the last time the real Baychimo was seen), and what he discovered about the fate of the ship.

    An article I read about American troops encountering hostile giant ape-like creatures during the Vietnam War inspired my short story The Other Enemy. Despite being a war story of sorts, there’s no overt violence in the piece. Instead, it focuses on the inability of soldiers trained to fight a human enemy to comprehend the dangers posed by an enemy that shouldn’t—that couldn’t—exist.

    The legend of the Apache Death Cave in Winslow, Arizona inspired my horror story Dead Apache Gorge. In 1878, Navajo warriors massacred a group of Apache raiders after trapping them in a cave. Since then, the cave has been reportedly haunted by the spirits of the Apache dead, so much so that a nearby white settlement was abandoned when the settlers were plagued with disembodied groans and ghostly footsteps outside their homes.

    In my short story, a crusty modern-day rancher illegally grazes his cattle in the fictional Dead Apache Gorge despite warnings from local Navajos that doing so would raise ire of the chindi, the evil spirits of the dead Apaches. His failure to heed those warnings comes back to haunt him in more than one way.

    My short story Don’t Go Below, was inspired by the mysterious loss of the Ourang Medan three years after the end of WWII. According to legend, the former Liberty ship issued a confusing SOS. When another cargo ship arrived to render aid, her boarding party found the Ourang Medan on fire and its entire crew dead, looks of sheer terror frozen on their faces. Minutes later, the Ourang Medan exploded and sank.

    In my short story, the Ourang Medan carries an ossuary containing the remains of an ancient—and yet still very much active—Asian mythological creature whose victims die of sheer terror after just looking at it. A horror story with a touch of 1940s noir, it asks how does someone fight an enemy they can’t even look at? (By the way, I’m still shopping Don’t Go Below around, so if there are any editors interested…)

  2. Sadly, this week, I do not have much to offer to this conversation. Not that I have to any of the past conversations. HA!

    But all kidding aside, I do not read Horror. It’s never been something I have been drawn to and isn’t something I naturally pick up to read. Nor is it something I have written in. I respect the heck out of Horror writers for the amount of suspense built into the stories, and I can see how that level of suspense can translate to a Thriller. I’ve read some of the greats in the arena, but sadly, this isn’t something I look to read.

  3. I’ve written lots of horror short stories. In fact, most of my shorts have been horror. Ghosts. Killer clowns. Plague zombies. End of the world cults. I love the genre. For me, it’s one of the only ways to get a real gut punch of emotion. I like all kinds of horror. Even splatter, but it must have other elements to back up the use of gore. Not gore for the sake of gore.
    My first book, ROUTE 12, had a horror vibe. I wrote it that way. Everything I did regarding that book was inspired by horror. I was leaning toward a supernatural thread, but, as I’ve said a million times, you’ve got to really trust your storytelling abilities to jump into horror. You are quite literally building reality, because these elements don’t exist in the real world. I haven’t made the leap to a full-length horror.
    Horror pairs well with crime, thrillers, and noir. Joe Lansdale is a perfect example. Stephen King, as well. I mean, ITW has an interesting post about the far-reaching influence of Stephen King. There is a relationship. https://www.thebigthrill.org/2019/09/icons-weighing-in-on-the-kings-influence/

  4. I began my writing career in horror and still publish a short story in horror here and there. Why? Because it’s fun. Because it’s visceral. Because it cuts to the core of who were are as human beings.
    My novels, while not classically in that genre, always have that darker element within it. FEAR THE REAPER is about the American eugenics movement and how certain players in society jump-started the Nazi movement, along with exterminating great numbers of citizens right here in our country. That’s horror – because it’s reality. DARK MUSE tackles some lighter horror tropes in a musical thriller setting but with many of the protagonists battling some sort of disability (I’ve worked in special education for two decades), it dives into dark regions of the human psyche.
    As Stephen King said, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” It’s for that reason that I keep writing in the shadows of horror.
    One of my side jobs is working as a ghost tour guide and people become a little skittish when I discuss how much of the paranormal is proven science. They want to keep their horror on the sidelines where it’s safe. Life doesn’t play that way.
    That being said, I’m proud to have a pair of short story sales this fall in horror – I guess it’s in my DNA.
    Also, you’ll never find a more well-adjusted group of writers than the family of horror authors. Catharsis and all that. We bleed our fears and neuroses into the world – where everyone can be entertained by them.

  5. I’m not a horror fan in that I wouldn’t deliberately go to see a horror movie or buy a book I knew to be in that genre, but I have read a few thrillers that for me, border on horror. Can’t think of any titles at the moment.

    The Terminator was on TV last night. Does that class as horror? It’s still very scary. The ultimate unstoppable monster coming to get you no matter what. Like those dark riders in Lord of the Rings. Yikes!

  6. I’ve really enjoyed over my reading lifespan the works of Stephen King and Thomas Harris (Hannibal Lecter character series). I loved the building suspense with dire stakes, the haunting descriptions of the surrounding environments, and the character building. Now as a writer, I’ve gone back to some of those stories and taken note of those techniques. Even with the military and espionage thrillers I write, the need for suspense, tension, and foreboding character development comes in handy to capture reader interest and angst.
    Ironically, as I’ve been doing this, I’m being pulled to try my hand at a horror story of my own. I could care less if it sells, it’s all part of honing the writing craft.

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