Across all kinds of media, westerns and horror often go quite well together. The world of cowboys, lawmen, and outlaws in an untamed world blended with unexplainable terror, just seems to work. Be it in movie format, show format, comic format, or book format, and it is the latter that author Nick McAnulty presents.
A Toronto, Canada based writer/director behind the twisted found-footage film ‘Capture Kill Release’, his debut novel is called ‘Skinning the Coyote’ and it was released on October 6th by Wicked House Publishing.
We spoke to author Nick McAnulty about the book, crafting the story and the world, his inspirations, and so much more.
1. Hello Nick. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a filmmaker now turned novelist. Usually I write for the screen but Skinning the Coyote was a story I had to get out there which eventually evolved into it becoming my debut novel.
2. You’ve just released your debut horror novel – Skinning the Coyote – take me back to the origins of the idea. When did it start to form and what did your initial vision look like?
I love Horror and I love Westerns and think that they mash together like peanut butter and chocolate. I had an idea for a concept for a while that I pitched as “Predator but a Western”, essentially taking a bunch of tough badasses and pitting them against an unstoppable creature but giving it a Western setting and flavour. Eventually I sat down to write it as a script, but the end result was just a little too big and ambitious for that format so I decided to take the daunting task of re-exploring it as a novel.
3. Creating an authentic feeling Western is no easy task – what was your approach to crafting this world?
It started as a love letter to the types of Westerns I love. What do you see in them? What are the characters like? What time period do they usually take place in and why? These elements naturally made their way into the story very quickly and then from there it was about shaping an accurate and realistic world and characters around them.
4. Likewise, creating a monster is not an easy task, especially if you want it to be memorable. How did your creation come to life and was it an easy task for you to visualise it?
The scariest monsters you can’t explain which was a fun challenge I wanted to incorporate. I took some inspiration from a bunch of different monsters and legends, finding common elements amongst them along with some new ones while also crafting my own mythology around it. All of the descriptions in the book come from different character POV’s which I used to take advantage of this thing being almost too horrific and unreal to properly explain, so they almost come off as ramblings of what their mind is trying to decipher when they encounter it. It also makes the audience try to figure out what it is and how these characters will be able to deal with it because they’re both discovering it for the first time.
5. Did you have any trouble meshing the ‘monster’ side of the story with the Western side of things and did you look for inspiration elsewhere?
I think I had the opposite problem, at least at first. I always knew the big confrontation I wanted to have between the creature and a bunch of cowboys but it was the “who” those characters were and then “why” they were all put in this situation together that was the real challenge. Once those things were fleshed out, I fell in love with all of them and didn’t want to have to kill a bunch of them off. I really wanted to create a great stand-alone western which would have still been a hell of a ride without the supernatural element, and only once that foundation was in place would I really get to have fun by having the other shoe drop and change genres completely.
6. What is your favourite section of the story?
It has to be the big set-piece in the final act with all of the misfits who hate each other’s guts having to band together to figure out a way to kill this damn thing. I set out to create this terrifying creature that I had no way to get rid of, so I had to figure that out alongside my characters. They have no idea if it’s going to work and I was right there with them trying to plot it out.
7. Of course, you’re a writer and a director too. Did you find yourself writing from a movie perspective at times and was it difficult to break away from that style?
100%. I wrote this with the big screen in mind, so all of the big set pieces were visualised and planned out. It originally started in a screenplay format which lets the audience be a third person. This of course set out a new challenge when making it a novel as now I had to give direct perspective into what the characters are feeling and experiencing as everything is written from their various points of view.
8. As a published author, who are some of your literary idols and what is about their work that appeals so much to you?
Any horror writer who doesn’t mention Stephen King is a liar since he’s THE guy, but I’d say a HUGE influence in the writing style for me is Elmore Leonard. Not just the content of what he writes which I love but also his efficiency in his writing. He never got bogged down with unnecessary details, keeping you present in the story from cover to cover. His books read like movies, which is a big reason why so many of them have been adapted to the big screen and definitely something that I’ve always found very appealing.
9. Skinning the Coyote is complete – yet it leaves you wanting more – what are the chances of this story or world being expanded upon in the future?
Personally I think this particular story – especially with these characters – is done. That said, there’s definitely room to play with this mythology and I definitely want to return to some sort of Horror-Western again.
10. Likewise, would you have any interest in trying to get this made into a feature film further down the line?
Hell yes. Let’s do it. Where do I sign?
11. For you, what makes a good horror read?
Characters. I have to want to spend time with these characters, get to know them and care about them for the horror element to work. It’s hard to be scared for someone if you don’t care about them, but once you do you’re hoping like hell they’ll make it out of the story ok. If I’m scared for characters that I’ve fallen in love with, I know I’m in good hands.
12. What other plans do you have in the works that you can share with us?
Normally I’m working on a lot of horror stuff but lately I’ve been knee deep in comedy. Yes, there’s some horror-comedy in there but I’m currently juggling a couple projects that are all heavily comedy based. Me and horror are far from done with each other, but it’s nice to be working on some stuff that can make me (and hopefully others) laugh.