I interviewed author Edo van Belkom via e-mail in January 2003. Upcoming in April 2003 is his novel Scream Queen, which is, in his words, "a supernatural horror novel about a reality television show where six hopefuls enter a haunted house that's been rigged with all sorts of special effects. They have tasks to perform and their movements are taped. At the end of the night, studio audiences will be able to vote for their favourite scream queen, who gets $50,000 and the starring role in the next Gowan Brothers horror feature. Of course, the house turns out to be really haunted, and things go horribly wrong."
Scream Queen seems to be an "acknowledgement," for lack of a better word, of the current craze for "reality" TV shows that Survivor set off. Did you watch any of these shows as research?
Not really. I've never watched an episode of Survivor and I haven't watched any of the current reality shows, other than a few clicks of the remote here and there. But I am aware of popular culture and when I wanted to do a genre horror novel that was hip and timely, it seemed like the perfect mix of pop culture and old-fashioned supernatural horror.
I think the idea was sparked by a lot of different sources. The Blair Witch Project  was probably a subtle influence, and there were a few other reality shows that I saw bits and pieces of that just put people in haunted houses... And of course, there was the William Castle movie House on Haunted Hill  starring Vincent Price (recently remade), where people had to stay in a haunted house overnight to claim a prize. I actually make reference to that movie in the book, because there's no way people wouldn't make the comparison between that movie and my novel.
So the idea was always out there in various forms. What I did was combine elements to create something new in Scream Queen.
How are sales for Be Very Afraid ? Are you mulling over titles to a possible "sequel" anthology? Be Very Very Afraid... Be Horribly Afraid...
It's a bit too early to know just how Be Very Afraid! is doing, but I can only assume it's doing as well as or better than Be Afraid!, which is currently in its second printing.
I wanted to do a third anthology called Poop Your Pants, but I don't think that would go over to well with librarians out there... But seriously, I think I've done the teenage problem story to death, so to speak with those two anthologies so the series will probably end with just the two volumes. I am interested in doing a YA vampire anthology, but that's somewhere down the road at the moment.
I hear that your novel Army of the Dead will be coming out soon after a very long delay. Could you tell me more about it?
Yes, at last, five years after it was originally scheduled for publication, Army of the Dead will be published in February 2003. The book was to be published by TSR as part of the Dragon Dice battle game program, but when Wizards of the Coast bought out TSR, Wizards decided to keep its battle game and axe the one belonging to TSR. Luckily, I asked for the novel back and Wizards agreed to it. So, I owned the novel, but someone else owned the rights to the game, and with the game dead, so was the novel. But a few years ago a new company bought the Dragon Dice game from Wizards and wrote me asking for the novel. Since I owned half of it, we entered into an agreement with Prime Books together to get the book published, and hopefully everything will work out well.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished and turned in Blood Road, a novel about a vampire truck driver who cruises Highway 400 and the Trans-Canada Highway, picking up hitchhikers and feeding off them for several days before leaving them on the side of the road dead...and drained of blood.
And I'm just putting the final polish on two outlines for novels I hope Kensington will want to buy. One is called Demon Lover and is about a woman who tries to replace her recently deceased husband with an incubus, with disastrous results, and Scream Test, a sequel to Scream Queen.
You're going to be hosting the "Meet the Guests" event at the EerieCon V convention [Niagara Falls, NY, April 11–13] this year along with your other duties at the con. Is this something new for you?
I've been a "guest" for "Meet the Guests" before, but that bit of paneling has always been hosted by my good friend Robert J. Sawyer. Rob can't attend this year's con, so I was asked to fill in for him. I'm looking forward to it and I hope I can do something close to the excellent job he's done with it over the years.
Are there any on-air appearances scheduled?
As with every book I do, I'm trying to set up some media appearances to coincide with the release of Scream Queen. This is the first book of mine that will be available everywhere in Canada (Chapters alone took 3,300 copies), so it's more important than ever that I put the word out on this one.
I'll likely be appearing on Off the Record, which has been great to me over the years and had me on each time I have a new book to promote. I'll also do a spot on Space, and also another guest spot on Reel to Real, the movie show on Rogers Cable. I was on that show at Hallowe'en and Richard Crouse agreed to have me back to promote Scream Queen, which has a great movie angle to it. There will be other things—television, perhaps radio, plenty of websites and reviews—but nothing more definite I can say at this time.
Will you be attending Toronto Trek 17 [July 11–13, 2003] and Torcon 3 [August 28–September 1, 2003]? Have you gone to a Worldcon before?
I have agreed to attend Toronto Trek, and I bought memberships for myself, my wife and my son to Torcon three years ago.
And while I've been to World Horror Conventions before, this will be my very first SF Worldcon and I am looking forward to it, especially meeting plenty of writers whom I've met electronically over the years, but never face to face. I'm sure the con will be quite exciting.
Do you have any hobbies you'd like to share with us? (Karaoke singing?) What do you do for relaxation/fun when your head's not immersed in a story?
I've been spending a lot of time lately training to be an auxiliary constable with the Peel Regional Police. It's a pretty intensive course covering all sorts of classroom instruction, as well as physical and weapons training. After graduation, I'll be doing things like ride-alongs, special events and the like, so that will also take up much of my time. (My wife is also undergoing the training at the moment, so it's very much a family activity!)
As far as hobbies go, I enjoy reading, and drying fruit. I have three dehydrators and spend August and September each year drying grapes, plums, apricots, pears, apples, etc. so I can eat them throughout the rest of the year. It's a lot of tedious work, but I find it relaxing, and the reward is obvious since you can eat the fruits of your labour.
I hesitate to bring up the SK name, but there's a new supernatural TV show based on Stephen King's The Dead Zone. Have you been watching? If so, what are your reactions?
I have not been watching The Dead Zone, but I hear nothing but good things about it. You might not expect it from someone working in the horror genre, but I don't watch a lot of the horror/fantasy shows on television. I'm not sure why that is, but I tend to be drawn more to the reality-based dramas like Law & Order and NYPD Blue. A newer show I've been watching is Third Watch. I guess I get enough fantasy from the books I read and the movies I watch. I am a big fan of DVDs and buy a couple new ones each month.
Other interviews with Edo on this site: March 2001; appearance on the Open Mike with Mike Bullard talk show, April 26, 2001.
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