What other books are you reading that are inspiring your work right now?

I've been spending a lot of time with the little known horror writer Thomas Ligotti. He is sometimes presented as the heir of Lovecraft but to me he is more of an American Kafka. It's the horror of nihilism and almost a kind of dark mysticism. I'm interested in this idea, the notion of atheism of wonder that fully encounters cosmic absurdity.

So, strangely, I've been reading a lot of Ligotti combined with some late Thomas Merton—his Zen fascination period, not the early triumphalistic papal-centrism.

Also in my pile are Jason Zinoman's Shock Value and the recent reprint of Kim Newman's Nightmare Movies. Both deal with the history of horror in relation to its auteurs and its historical context. I love that stuff.

Sorry to build such a list here but I think that, like most writers, I feed off a lot of different sources. I'm a big comics fan and am very much into the work of Scott Snyder. His amazing American Vampire series and the recent Severed taps into the dark currents of American history in a way that obviously interests me.

Finally getting to read Junot Diaz's The Brief, Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. The Lord of the Rings meets a meditation on Dominican history in the Trujillo-era meets nerd trying to survive before it became cool to be a nerd. Amazing stuff and even better than you've heard it is.

What do you hope people take away from this book?

I hope they start taking their monsters seriously. I hope they find in them more than entertainment and more than tales for adolescents and children. I hope they see how they are encoded in the DNA of American history. I hope they re-watch sci-fi and horror "with me," that they'll carry some of the insights into the theatre or to their DVD/Blu-Ray collection.

I also hope a lot of it makes them angry about the lies they've been told.

Often, the best book ideas come while you're writing a book. Have you started the next one?

Yes. You can expect at least a short book from me on Vampira, the 1950s horror host, and that era's construction of gender and cold war domesticity. I'm also working on a couple of essays for collections. These essays are on topics that range from horror and American vengeance narratives to Vampires and Satanism to a piece I've always wanted to write about Wes Craven and Freddy Krueger.

There is also a big project that I'm planning but it's too early to talk about. It's more horror and more monsters but from a very different angle. I also think it's something Patheos readers will be especially interested in. That's all I feel comfy saying since it's so early.

Thanks for the chance to talk about all this stuff!

For more conversation on Monsters in America, return to the Patheos Book Club here.