What is a death mask?
Throughout the ages, man often made masks of the deceased faces. It is a way of honoring the dead and, before photographs became available, to preserve the visage of the deceased person for the living to view. There are many in museums around the world including some famous people such as Agamemnon, Cromwell, Edison, Newton and Volaire. During my recent trip to Germany I discovered several in museums including the last Teutonic Knight Hochmeister, Archduke Eugen, and two rulers: Frederic II and Frederic Wilhelm IV.
I made a plaster cast of my own face to use for promoting Death Masks and the detail of the features surprised me. The death masks I had the opportunity to see also had great detail. FYI: the one I did of myself is technically called a Life Mask since I am still living.
What does a death mask have to do with the book?
One thing many serial murderers have in common is collecting something from their victims. In this story the killer makes a death mask of each victim. It’s also intended to be a play on the words since there is something unexpected about the murderer revealed at the very end so the fact that the identity remained hidden is a kind of mask.
Why did you decide to write this book? What inspired you?
I wrote the first draft while living in Ohio, across the street from a metro park. Having come from the wide open spaces of New Mexico, the dense trees of Ohio and steep areas struck me as places to dump a body. Often in the news, people were found days after driving off into one of these areas. I did talk with the park rangers near me and found out they try to keep any assaults or other problems occurring in the parks under wraps so that people will feel safe in coming there.
Why a story about a serial killer? Aren’t those overdone (SPOILER ANSWER)?
I decided early on I wanted my protagonist to be someone different than those you find in a lot of thrillers. Bill is an IT computer support tech instead of a detective or someone with law enforcement experience. His curiosity keeps him on the trail but his lack of experience causes him to make mistakes.
The murderer is female. Her sex isn’t revealed until the last chapter. In the opening scene it is left unclear she is even human.
Why a female murderer? (SPOILER QUESTION)
Women serial murderers tend to be better at killing than their male counterparts. They go for longer periods of time before being caught, with higher body counts for several reasons: they seldom talk about their crimes to anyone, they tend to take choose less violent ways of death, and for women—many of their killings are viewed as mercy deaths and therefore more acceptable to society. For example: the woman whose elderly relatives die in her care. The rest of her family may not realize she poisoned them, thinking they passed on of old age. I find that concept extremely chilling.
Why did you decide to publish Death Masks with an e-book publisher (Eternal Press)?
I find every path to publishing valid in one form or another. My first book came out as under a print on demand format because I had the opportunity to do it free. I do editing for Eternal Press and so took the opportunity when offered to me to try my hand at an e-book. It may not be the best choice for every book but I believe a good one for this story. I prefer to form my own opinions about such things with a little of my own experience.
Tell us about the trailer?
My fiancé, William Gilchrist filmed it for me using ideas we brainstormed together. The music is from a death metal band from my hometown of Roswell, New Mexico. I wanted a rougher sound since this is not a happy, fluffy story. The neat thing is the band, Children of a Lesser God, and I are working together to promote ourselves. It’s opened up some interesting opportunities. They will be taking touring all summer and Death Masks goes with them.
What else have you published recently?
August of 2007 saw a book called The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction released from Dragon Moon Press. I wrote the chapters on world building and sub-genres. Presently I am writing a chapter for the same editors on Celtic Magic for a book on writing fantasy magic expected for fall 2008 release.
April 2008 Death Masks came out, and towards the end of the month, an anthology of dragon stories titled, Firestorm of Dragons. Firestorm is from Dragon Moon Press. I have a story in this one about what dragons really do with all those maidens who get sacrificed to them.
Then in the fall of 2008, I have an entry in a Twisted Twins horror themed desk calendar. Yep. I got the January 1 spot!! It’s the New Year’s Resolutions of a serial killer (intended to be funny).
What are you working on now?
I have a horror novel tentatively titled, Holy Blessed Homicide, which I am revising. It is also out in submission.
I am also in the first rewrites of a story about the Amazon warrior women from the region of Turkey. It was my 2007 nanowrimo project but I have two more in the series planned. The first of which is brainstormed and the first few chapters written.