Failed punk-rocker Henry returns to his hometown, which seems trapped in an idyllic autumn.
Henry feels he hasn’t grown as a person since high-school, so he decides to buckle down and make his mark by solving the town’s creepiest secret!
Will he work out the mystery of the Locker Arms?
The big question is: can anyone handle the truth?
Locker Arms is Zackary McGaha’s debut horror novella with KGHH Publishing.
KG: Locker Arms - Strange title, set in a school I presume? Can you tell us what it’s all about? Without too many spoilers?
ZM: The best way to describe it is to say it’s about fall and “small-town” horror. I wanted to capture the feel of those two things. Premise-wise, it’s about a failed rocker who returns to his hometown during autumn and gets the notion to snoop around in his old high school. He remembers an old missing-person case and decides to aid in solving it…for his own glorification. Of course, said mystery involves demon arms pulling people into lockers. Genre-wise, the book is a straight-up horror comedy…but, what is it really about? It’s “really” about what high school does to you. Some people thrive after graduation; some people flounder; others realize they left high school less than whole.
KG: Lots of horror directors inspired me in the early days of film making. Janes Whale was a genius with Bride of Frankenstein. You are of the NOW generation. Who has inspired you in horror writing and why?
ZM: I end up getting influenced by new stuff every day, be it new books or new movies. However, there are two original influences that got me off my ass and forced me to create. Chris Cornell is my main one, as far as being artistic in general goes. His music spoke to me on an intimate level and made me “realize” I was an artist. I probably would have started being artsy at some point in my life even if I’d never heard his stuff, but man…his music is the soundtrack to my childhood and adolescence. Now, as far as actual writing and “horror” goes, I’m gonna have to go with Tobe Hooper. I lived inside those Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies when I was a kid; he was the first director whose work I sought out based on his involvement alone.
KG: I always think of the story; the story is key: it comes first. For some writers, it’s the characters. They build a story around the them. Which one do you prefer with your writing?
ZM: My stories always start with little images or scenes; they serve as kicking-off points. Sometimes they’re setting-centric, sometimes they’re character-centric, and, mostly, they’re both. I have to enter that scene or whatever first. Then the story unfolds. Not to rip off Stephen King, but it always feels like the story is already finished; all I’m doing is figuring out what it is and writing it. Case in point: every story I’ve ever written…that I actually finished…reached its conclusion in an organic way; there literally couldn’t have been an alternate ending. Sure, I’ve tweaked every now and then, but the main event always stays.
Now, I’m going to contradict myself: sometimes I just start writing without an image or scene in my mind, and the story just naturally starts happening. There’s really no “one” way, which is a cheesy-ass thing to say, but it’s true.
KG: What’s the best way to scare your readers?
ZM: My goal’s not to scare. I just want to tell stories, create worlds, arrive at deeper truths, etc. Only things that scare me are on the news. Plus, artificial intelligence. Now that’s terrifying.
KG: I love blood and gore, who doesn’t? Is there lots of blood and gore in this book? If not do you plan to put on plenty more in the next books?
ZM: There’s some gore, but I definitely wouldn’t categorize Locker Arms as a work of extreme horror, which I’ve read and watched a good deal of. It’s more of a horror-comedy, influenced by the direct-to-telelvision/dvd horror comedies of the 2000s that were actually good and weren’t just cynical spoofs. In the future? Yeah, maybe. I hate to say this, since everyone has, but it has to fit in the story. I usually love my characters way too much; I have to let their stories play out before I butcher them. Trust me, though: I love a good butchering.
KG: I had a very scary time when I was younger at school; my headmaster was the devil incarnate. How were your school days and are there any teachers or principles that made it into the book?
ZM: The whole time I was writing Locker Arms, I couldn’t help but envision it in my old high school. However, and this is actually surprising now that I think about it…I don’t think a SINGLE teacher I’ve had made it in there. But I did play on what I’ve come to see as “teacher culture”, considering I’ve been around teachers all my life, have known several personally (as in, not just at school), and have a girlfriend who’s training to be one…so, yeah: there’s a subculture associated with teaching, and I definitely play on the things that we always see repeating: the English teacher who’s super-fucking passionate to the point of insanity, the old teacher who’s flipped his/her lid but won’t ever retire, etc. But as far as specific individuals? No, not really.
My own school days were weird. I’ve always been sort of a sulking loner. Add that to the fact that I’m far from being a carefree, laid-back type of dude…although I am in some ways. Simply put, I was awful at making friends, viewed school with a negative perspective, and always wished I was somewhere else; I loathed being surrounded by loud people. To be honest, I wish I would have approached school with a more laid-back manner. Like…not that I wish I wasn’t who I am or anything like that. I just think I took things too seriously to have fun.
That’s not to say it was a complete drag. I had a couple likeminded friends and some cool girlfriends, but I was alone for the most part.
KG: I was bullied as a child just because I was different. What do you think about bullying in school these days?
ZM: From my experience, the nastiest kids are the ones who think they’re smart. I’ve always thought that stereotype of the big, dumb bully who picks on nerds was misleading. It’s the cliques of rich kids groomed by their parents to be doctors you have to look out for.
As far as “these days” go, a lot of kids get shamed and made fun of by said rich kids…or kids who fancy themselves braniacs…and it always spreads like wildfire because of technology. Me: I was immune to that shit. I just didn’t care, and I never will. But I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people. At that point in their lives, it was devastating.
KG: Schools in America are scary places, what with gun attacks etc, what are your views on gun control and being safe in school?
ZM: I think gun control is an awful idea; it wouldn’t attack the root cause: it’d be an authoritarian solution to a problem I believe stems from our culture, and it would leave good people helpless against all the psychos out there who haven’t shot up any schools yet.
Where I live, guns have been a central part of our lives for generations. Teenagers used to take guns to school with them so they could go hunting afterwards! This, I believe, adds credence to the theory that a lot of the shootings are the result of a flawed, unhappy, unfulfilled society. Our culture is too career-oriented, materialistic (lacking in spirituality), and self-focused. We go to school, get degrees, get told what to think by the media and university, get jobs, then we die. For people suffering with mental illnesses, it’s probably way too much to handle if they haven’t gotten the right kind of help.
Mental health screening and armed guards at every school would be, in my opinion, good systematic precautions, but, as I said above: I think these problems stem from our culture.
KG: Horror to me is always about escapism and its pure fantasy to shock & terrify people; I often shock my wife sometimes even with my writing. How does your partner feel about your writing?
ZM: She likes it, I’m glad to say! She proofreads for me right after I’m done proofreading myself, so she’s usually the first person to read my stuff.
KG: I think it would make a good movie. Who, if anyone famous, would you like to see in the lead roles?
ZM: I honestly have no clue. The characters are solidified in my head as themselves. Any actors would simply be imposters…although I would love seeing what an awesome director and great group of actors could do with my story.
KG: It has a very eye-catching cover; did you have a hand in it with working on the designer Dan Young? How was he to work with?
ZM: Dan is awesome. He did a great job, and, honestly, did better than I could have imagined, since I’m not a visual person. I was like, “Some arms coming out of a locker would be cool.” So, yeah: he worked wonders without me having that clear/specific of an idea of what the cover should be!
KG: What books can our readers expect from you in the future?
ZM: I’ve got some ideas stewing around in my noggin. Most of them are somewhat comedic in nature…although I’m writing a horror novel for you right now, Mr. Gore! Plus…I’d say a couple sequels…perhaps spiritual successors…to Locker Arms are in order.
KG: You are young. In fact, I’ve got underwear older than you! What advice would you give to up and coming younger writers, you know, like toddlers?!
ZM: Don’t get sucked into social media. Read a lot of cool books; watch a lot of cool movies.
KG: And what advice would you give to Old Fart horror writers like myself?
ZM: Don’t act like gatekeepers or untouchables. Help out the young’uns. We aim to do the same one day.
KG: One last question: what scary objects did you keep in your locker as a child?
ZM: Ya know…I never used my locker! I didn’t need it. My backpack was always heavy, though.
Thank you for your time and it’s a very good book. I’m sure it will do well.
© KGHH Publishing 2018