The Penmen Profile: Horror Novelist Kevin Flanders

by Rebecca LeBoeuf

The experiences Kevin Flanders has as a reporter often give him inspiration for horror and paranormal fiction settings. A published author of five books, Flanders is working on a couple of trilogies and some stand-alone novels. “The Inhabitants” is a nearly completed trilogy about a haunted apartment, filled with trapped and restless spirits. Crediting himself as a horror-spiritual writer, all his books contain an uplifting message. He is spending his spring on a book tour through Western and Central Massachusetts while writing his novels.

Have you always written?
I didn’t start writing fiction until college. In high school, my focus was pretty much entirely on hockey. It was a long drive to and from school as a school-choice student, and practice took up a lot of time. I remember being constantly exhausted. I always liked vocabulary and stories, but didn’t really discover my passion for it until I took creative writing classes in college. I remember thinking I would work on one of the first assignments for maybe half an hour, but I loved it so much that I wrote for three straight hours without even realizing it. I knew in that moment that fiction was my calling.

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
I get inspired by a lot of people and places I encounter. I try not to force the plot to conform to what I want it to be, but to instead let it form itself in my mind. Sometimes characters have a way of writing themselves, or even changing their names. In one of my books, a general antagonist turned into a layered character as I explored deeper into his background and what caused him to act in certain ways.

I am also heavily inspired by places I visit in journalism. You get to see a lot of fascinating – sometimes creepy – settings. I once did an interview in a gentleman’s basement, surrounded by his doll collection (instant horror idea).

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them? 
My biggest challenge is finding the energy for fiction. After writing 2-3 articles a day, the last thing my mind wants is to write more after work. I try to reserve certain days specifically for fiction so that my mind is clear. If you think about it in a professional sports context – those athletes arrive at the stadium hours before the game after extensive time practicing and preparing. They’re not wearing themselves out with other jobs and depleting their energy. I try to bring that same preparation and focus to my fiction days. I think about the characters and plots while I’m driving, exercising, even taking walks. This is sort of like my “practice” time, so that the ideas are in my mind when it’s time to write. Also, instead of wasting too much time with social media, reality TV shows, etc. – the infamous detractors from creativity – I spend a lot of free time doing research for my novels. I have researched everything from autonomous vehicles to wars for my novels.

When I visit schools or speak to young writers, I tell them: it’s great to be a fan in life. We all love Tom Brady and the Sox, but when our final sunsets eventually come, do we want to have wasted all of our days being a fan of someone else – or do we want to forge our own path and put our mark on the world, even if it’s a small one? I believe God has given us all the tools for extreme greatness. We just have to discover our calling. I was blessed enough to do so.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
My first two books were published by small presses, but I wasn’t pleased with the lack of marketing and flexibility. I then decided to do the Kindle Direct self-publishing format. This system puts all of the responsibility on the writer – editing, cover design, marketing – but I have a great team of family and friends supporting me. From Brandi McCann, my cover artist, to my sister, mother and father – who serve respectively as social media specialist, editor, and manager – I have a ton of support. I enjoy self-publishing because it was too challenging to secure an agent. I was rejected 633 times before I realized that I could get hit by a bus or an asteroid or falling debris from an aircraft any day and not have released my work. My goal isn’t to become a bestseller, but to do my best to sell as many books as I can. If I can inspire one person with my books, if I can give one person going through a difficult time the solace of distraction and entertainment, if I can make one person want to leave the light on after reading my books, then I am enriched not by money but the joy of conveying my story to others and impacting them as a storyteller.

How do you market your work?
I rely heavily on social media and my website. I also have bookmarks which I hand out at all craft fairs and events.

What do you wish you knew when you first started writing?
That getting an agent is a near impossible challenge. Even if you secure an agent, there is no guarantee he/she will find a major publisher. I wish I had gone to the self-publishing format sooner so that people could have access to my work. I also wish I had known that time only moves in one direction, a seemingly obvious thing. But the recent death of my dog and best friend, Jiggy, really got me inspired to make the most of each day and be productive, not wasting time.

Who are the authors that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, Mitch Albom, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Peter Straub, Sue Grafton, the list goes on for a while from there…

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
“Julius Winsome” – Simple and yet inspirational book about solitude, companionship, and revenge. A fascinating glimpse of the randomness of the hunt – and what happens when the hunters become the hunted. This book can also be read in an allegorical perspective, which is really cool.

“Divine Comedy” (particularly “Dante’s Inferno”) Everyone should read this – a few might even behave better because of it. The idea of the contrapasso is transcendental – can be read in so many different ways. This piece inspired one of my books as well.

“The Shining” – Awesome horror novel – one of my all-time favorites. I love the layers and complexity of haunted house stories, which juxtapose past and present as well as any story. The houses themselves end up becoming characters if they are presented well enough, and much like real construction, you get to build them up one brick at a time. There’s always some great secret waiting for discovery, and you just can’t stop reading them.