Advanced Search | Search A!:
Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Cyrus Alderwood mixes horror and comedy

John Schweingrober writes under the pseudonym Cyrus Alderwood.
John Schweingrober writes under the pseudonym Cyrus Alderwood.

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | March 27, 2019

John Schweingrober (who writes under the pseudonym Cyrus Alderwood) has a dream — to make enough money as a writer to not go back to his job as an investment advisor.

“I run a small but growing nonprofit in the region with the help of a few board members and founders of the organization. But this year I’m all in on writing and selling books, sink or swim. I’m hoping it works out with book sales that will allow me to keep chasing this dream for a little while longer.

“It’s an addiction at this point. I write for the rush of the next journey, to push the limits of my own creativity,” he says.

Alderwood began writing in 2000 when he had moved to Cincinnati for a new job.

“Like most newbies to the craft, I had no idea where to start or where to find ideas. A friend of mine was giving me a tour around the city, and we ended up in suburb called Spring Grove. She took me there to see their cemetery, which is the second largest one in the country from what I’ve read. The place was so pristine, peaceful ... macabre. Ideas for a story began swirling in my head, and the writing bug hit me that day. My first writing experience was inspired by Spring Grove Cemetery,” he says.

That book is now called “Grave Legends” and is the first book in a four-part series. “Since my first attempts at writing the book in the early 2000s all failed, it took me 18 years to get it right. That lesson in patience is something all serious writers know about,” he says.

He has seven books on Amazon and four more that he hasn’t published yet. Alderwood writes in two genres: horror and comedy. His comedies include “Pot of Gold,” “Tales From the Sunset Pub,” “A Man Called Doosh” and the first book in a series called “The Chronicles of Barry Dick.” His other works include “Grave Legends,” “Bedtime Stories For the Terminally Afraid” and “Dark Places.”

“When I was a kid I was a fan of horror movies and comedy movies. When you grow up watching Freddy Krueger and Rodney Dangerfield, I guess you end up with a writer like me. Although horror and comedy are two very different genres, I sort of gravitated to those horror films that had a bit of comedy in them. Let’s face it, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ got a bit cheesy after the first couple of films. The character Freddy eventually became more famous for the funny one-liners than he did for the gruesome purpose of the horror films. You could tell the actors and filmmakers were having a bit of fun with the genre. I weave some of that attitude into my own work. Although my book ‘Bedtime Stories For the Terminally Afraid’ is filled with some pretty edgy stories, there are a couple of them in there that could easily be seen as comedy. The fat guy trying to survive a zombie apocalypse is a great example of that. I took a popular segment of the horror genre and had some fun with it. ‘Walking Dead’ fans might not approve unless they have a sense of humor,” Alderwood says.

Alderwood says what he loves most about writing is the creative challenge. “It’s not a team sport, it’s more like a tennis match. The characters are the players. You have the crowd favorite on one side of the net and the villain (or impossible challenge) on the other side. A writer serves as the umpire, calling the match as evenly as they can while the characters lead the reader and the writer on a journey.”

He has a routine when he writes. “Before I do anything else during the day, I wake up, grab my cup of caffeine and write at least two pages. I leave myself hanging between thoughts, so that I literally obsess about getting back to my work on it. It’s a mean kind of self-motivation, but it works for me.

“Inspiration for great stories is all around us. Sometimes I get inspiration from headlines in the news, unusual events that happen in the lives of others, sometimes from music. It’s a crazy world out there. If I couldn’t find something to inspire me to come up with a story, I’d quit writing.

“My biggest influences are Hunter S. Thompson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and literally every fun movie I grew up on. My writing style is nothing like Fitzgerald or Steinbeck, but my approach to the craft has certainly been influenced by them because they are two of my favorite writers. The same can be said for Jack Kerouac, the infamous Beat writer. Although I’d never compare myself to these greats, their influence is certainly there. As far as my style and that of HST, he was a master at gonzo style writing. I try to take the approach of looking at any given situation (in some of my work) and turning that situation into a wild party with some of the most unexpected things resulting that you’d never imagine at the beginning of the story. ‘Tales From the Sunset Pub’ and ‘The Chronicles of Barry Dick’ are examples of that chaotic approach.

“I’m putting the final touches on a biblical thriller called ‘Revelation Calling’ that will be out in May. I’ve worked on this book for the past year. It’s very different from anything I’ve published, but I took on the challenge with excitement and this book has been a labor of love.

“I’m still waiting on that career highlight, but it is absolutely amazing to read a good review by a reader. It is a rush to know that hundreds of hours of hard work brought some joy to a reader, enough so that they recommend me to others. I’ve been struggling the last year to try and do this full time, and I am hoping that book sales will grow to the point that I can make a living doing this before I go back to my old career as an investment advisor,” he says.

Alderwood self-publishes on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. He says marketing his books is the toughest part of the job. He uses social media (Facebook and Twitter) and has a website (www.cyrusalderwood.com) for that purpose.

“This year I am trying to get as many book signings as I can get, also touching base with radio stations around the country to see if they need guests for their local shows. That’s difficult, too. Most hosts don’t bother to have guests that haven’t had a widely popular book or a best seller. Writers are built to be introverts. Well, most of us are. Most of us feel like we’re being arrogant when we have to toot our own horns. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

“Reading my work is an adventure you didn’t see coming. Sometimes it’s scary. You’ll find yourself between The Twilight Zone and a Stephen King based movie. Sometimes you’ll laugh at the ridiculous behavior of the characters, the questionable judgment, the flamboyant reactions and sketchy associates. You’ll laugh; you might even be a little shocked. But then again, isn’t that just a reflection of who we are as a culture, after all?” he says.

Alderwood lives in Tazewell County, Virginia. He says his life pursuits are to finally have a best seller on his hands and enjoy the occasional glass of Scotch.

He will be signing and selling books at the Highlands Writers Fair at the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit www.cyrusalderwood.com.

READ ON: Rita Quillen brings poetry to Writers Fair

Topics: L, Literature