Chris Sorensen is an award-winning narrator of more than 200 audiobooks and author of the middle-grade book, The Mad Scientists of New Jersey. In January, he made his adult horror debut with the release of The Nightmare Room, book one of The Messy Man series.
The Nightmare Room is one hell of a debut, too. Hunter Shea, author of Mail Order Massacres and a favorite of High Fever Books, said of The Nightmare Room, "This is one haunted house that had me running for the door! Blood frozen. Spine chilled. A must read." Shea is far from alone in this assessment, and since its release The Nightmare Room has racked up more than a score of highly positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and has earned its share of critical acclaim from sites like Horror After Dark and Horror Maiden's Book Reviews, as well as a 5-star review from this very site right here. If you haven't already read my thoughts on Sorensen's latest, go check it out!
Sorensen was kind enough to take some time out of his writing and narrating duties to briefly step into a different kind of nightmare room, speaking with High Fever Books about his latest release.
Looking at your background, you’ve narrated a number of children’s and non-fiction titles, and previously published a middle-grade book, The Mad Scientists of New Jersey. Tell us a bit about your background with horror – what made you want to dive straight into the deep end with The Nightmare Room?
Horror is my first love. As a child, I would set my alarm for midnight and sneak out to the den to watch our local creature feature broadcast, Pyewacket Presents. I was a college faculty brat, so I had full access to the school’s library. I spent my summers poring over books about horror films, mythology and Bigfoot (books our public library didn’t have). I made zombie films with my friends and built haunted houses in my basement. So, I come by it naturally. I’ve written a number of horror screenplays (one currently in development) and have come to learn that the road between the page and the screen is very, very long. There’s an immediacy about self-publishing that’s very exciting to me. Plus, I get to have control over layout, cover and (when I finally find time for it) the audiobook. And why wouldn’t I dive into the deep end? That’s where the dark things lurk.
Pete Larson, the everyman caught up in the terrors of The Nightmare Room is an audiobook narrator. Clearly, you drew on a lot of personal experience in crafting this character’s profession. There’s also a deeply personal, heartbreaking loss fueling Pete and his wife. I apologize if this is too sensitive a topic, but did you also experience a similar tragedy that you drew upon? We horror authors have a tendency to bleed onto the page – how deep did you cut yourself?
The grief and loss are real while the actual situation is not. I started writing this story during a time when my wife and I were caring for an elderly relative of hers while at the same time shuttling back and forth to see my father, who was battling cancer. There was a period of weeks where death visited up close and personal—it permeated my life. Yeah…but rather than cutting, I think it was like letting certain feelings go. Honoring them and then moving on. Until the next book, at least.
The Nightmare Room is billed as the first book in The Messy Man series. Generally speaking, what’s your plan for this series moving ahead? What do readers have to look forward to and when can we expect book two?
Gearing up for my sophomore slump! No, I’m making a bit of a perspective shift in Book 2. Same storyline, different POV. Also, diving deeper into the heart of the mystery. Uncovering more answers, more questions, more ghosts. Looking at summer release of Book 2, The Hungry Ones, and shooting for a Halloween release of Book 3, The Messy Man.
The Larson's get some unexpected visitors after moving into their new home. Do you have any first-hand accounts of hauntings or encounters with the supernatural you’d like to share?
I thought I saw the ghost of a king when I was little. Told the neighborhood kids and got in trouble for scaring them. I once woke up behind myself (I guess I was the ghost). And in Colorado, my friends owned an 1890’s hospital that they turned into a hotel. Staying there one night (all alone in massive hotel – yeah, what was I thinking), I saw a shadow peer up at me over the end of the bed. That’s it. That’s all I got.
I would say that's more than enough! You’re a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and you mentioned you have a horror screenplay currently in development. You also have a number of other screenplay and playwright credits to your name, works that are either firmly in the horror genre or at least horror-adjacent. Upon reading The Nightmare Room it was immediately apparent that you’re well-versed in the genre and you certainly know how to craft a good scare. What works of horror are your big touchstones and what’s influenced your work leading up to The Nightmare Room?
The Shining will always be the book I point to—the relationships, the danger, the amorphous quality to the evil. The audiobook version is quite good. Ray Bradbury’s work taught me that there could be poetry in the unusual. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a marvel. I love the old Universal monster movies, can’t pass up a B movie (some of my favs: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Blood on Satan’s Claw, Prophecy) and am an avid collector of books and videos on Bigfoot. Eager to find new influences in the wealth of today’s horror writers. Like you!
Flattery will get you everywhere, Chris! Thanks for that. :D Now, where can readers find out more about you and your work? Plug away!
The website is up: casorensenwrite.com.
Figure I’d better get Book 2 and a couple novellas under my belt before I start hitting people up for follows. (That doesn't mean you have to wait, though! You can follow Chris on Twitter right now. - Ed.) I'm itching to have more to plug! This has been a great way to start. So glad people are responding to my first book for adults. I have about thirty others lined up, tapping their feet, waiting for me to ‘get to it’. Once it’s ‘got’ I’ll let you know.
I do hope you'll keep me posted! I'll definitely be on the look out for The Hungry Ones this summer, and I suspect so will a number of other readers, as well. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to give a special shout out to Hunter Shea who took the time to meet with me, offer up some contacts and give me my first review. He helped me make it real.
Hunter's a terrific guy! Chris, thank you so much for your time and agreeing to the interview. It's been a pleasure!
Thanks again for giving my ghosts a chance!
New York audiobook narrator Peter Larson and his wife Hannah head to his hometown of Maple City to help Peter's ailing father and to put a recent tragedy behind them. Though the small, Midwestern town seems the idyllic place to start afresh, Peter and Hannah will soon learn that evil currents flow beneath its surface.
They move into an old farmhouse on the outskirts of town—a house purchased by Peter's father at auction and kept secret until now—and start to settle into their new life.
But as Peter sets up his recording studio in a small basement room, disturbing things begin to occur—mysterious voices haunt audio tracks, malevolent shadows creep about the house. And when an insidious presence emerges from the woodwork, Peter must face old demons in order to save his family and himself.