Monday, July 23, 2012


I met Scott Bradley in the fourth grade when he transferred to my school, and we became fast friends, a relationship that lasted until we graduated from high school and went our separate ways. In 2007, we reconnected thanks to the boom of social networks, and we picked up where we’d left off. Now we’re writing partners with our first collaborative novel, The Dark, coming out next month, and we’ve got a bunch of short stories getting ready to hit some pretty fantastic markets. All of this either makes me the person most qualified to interview Scott Bradley, or it makes me the least qualified, depending on how you look at it. But, what the hell, I’m going to do it anyway and let you be the judge.

Welcome to my blog, Mr. Bradley. Make yourself comfortable. There’s plenty of club soda in the fridge, a pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights on the table beside you, and you’ll see that I’m playing the dinosaur sequence from The Tree of Life in a loop for you.

All right, then, I understand you turned 40 today. Give us your thoughts on that milestone.
Mixed feelings.  There seem to be two schools of thought on “the Big Four-0” – (A) Mid-life crisis freakout, or (B) It’s no big deal. We’re the same age, and I remember a few months ago around your birthday when I asked you this question, you definitely fell into the latter category. 

While it would be melodramatic to say I’m in category A, I can’t deny that it feels very strange.  Definitely a lot of taking stock of what I’ve accomplished and what I haven’t; trying not to dwell on regrets or missed opportunities, but also recognizing the mistakes I’ve made.

Also, there’s an even greater awareness of my mortality; that, in all realistic terms, I definitely have fewer years ahead of me now than behind me. Part of this is due to the unfortunate fact that I suffer from a very bad and very complicated case of Type 1 Diabetes. I have to check my blood sugar levels four times a day and then inject myself with the appropriate amount of insulin to stay alive. That’s heavy stuff at any age, but feels especially so hitting forty.

On a brighter note, I finally feel – as a writer – that I’m entering something close to the career I’ve always wanted. I’ve worked, on and off, as a professional writer since my early twenties, but it was always in journalism and film criticism, which was most definitely valuable and fun, but never the kind of writer I wanted to be. I wanted to be a creator, not a commentator (not in any way of diminish the value of journalism and criticism). Now, due in no small part to working with you, I’ve entered that stage of my career – first with our short stories; and now with our screenwriting and our first novel together. That feels really good.

When did you move to Los Angeles? Tell us a little about your first year in “Hollyweird.” What is your current opinion regarding The City of Angels? What are a few of your favorite haunts?
I moved here in 1998, which seems almost as mind-blowing to me as turning forty.  I’ve officially lived in Los Angeles longer than anyplace else other than where we grew up in Southwest Missouri.  I feel like a real Angelino, for better or worse

My first year was not without its difficulties, mostly in trying to find gainful employment as well as establish some kind of support system of people I could rely on. But, thanks to enormous help from my parents, as well as several close friends, I got through the financial and emotional challenges.
I’m sure most people reading this have seen the movie Swingers.  Although the characters in that had more of a “scene” than I did my first year, that film really reflects my early L.A. experiences. Right down to the fact that I literally live around the corner from the Derby (which, sadly, is now a bank) right at the height of the swing dancing craze that movie helped popularize. Some of my fondest memories of that first year were going to the Thursday night swing dancing classes, trying to learn the moves (I am, alas, a terrible dancer). I’ve always wanted to write something about those days but – as of yet – haven’t been able to pin down the story I’d want to tell since, as I said, Swingers really nails a lot of it for me.

As for favorite haunts – lately, they’re basically my apartment and my girlfriend’s apartment.
When you suggested we adapt Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Night They Missed the Horror Show,” I thought you’d completely lost your mind. But I trusted you, and am very happy I did. Not a lot of people would have read that story and clearly seen a movie, so kudos to you. Tell us about the moment you wanted to take on this ambitious project. What are, in your estimation, the chances of this screenplay ever becoming a movie?

I’ve always loved that story. Though I love pretty much every word Joe Lansdale has written, I was especially fascinated by “The Night They Missed the Horror Show” – how, as I think Joe himself has said, it’s funny until it’s not funny.  And then it’s really not funny. It’s also staggeringly provocative in terms of its insights into issues of race and racism; besides being a great entertainer, I firmly believe Joe is one of our best and most important American fiction writers grappling with those issues. And nowhere more bluntly than in this story. So I thought it would be a wonderful challenge to try to pull off what Joe did in the story at feature length.

When I suggested it to you, I hadn’t made any attempts at screenwriting for quite sometime. Screenwriting was what initially drew me to L.A., and I just hadn’t had any success. I’d love to say it’s because my genius wasn’t recognized, but that’s simply not true. While I’m proud of certain things I wrote, 95% of my screenwriting from my first decade in Los Angeles just wasn’t very good. And I moved here thinking I was going to be the next Paul Schrader!
But, by the time we started working together, I felt like I had gained a lot of chops as a writer, just from getting older and living life. And of course you brought a whole new perspective and set of skills to the table, even though screenwriting was new to you. So when our first collaboration, on “The Better Half:  A Love Story”, went so spectacularly, it was suddenly like, okay, this is going somewhere, and the partnership was taking shape. Part of that process was deciding what we wanted to do next, and my immediate thought was to take a shot at a screenplay rather than a novel, since you were already at work on your first novel, Anon.

Why I thought our first screenplay together should be an adaptation of an enormously controversial story that didn’t appear to lend itself to feature film (and some would argue is totally unfilmable at any length) I really don’t know, other than to say that, though Joe’s story is pure Texas, a lot of it reminded me of where we grew up in Southwest Missouri – especially the casual racism coupled with an obsession with high school sports.  So then I set about inveigling you into the notion; you signed on for the ride; we got in touch with Joe, he cut us an amazing deal allowing us to take a crack at it, and the rest is history.

As to whether it will ever be a movie, I don’t know.  The material is so aggressive and confrontational that it’s a hard sell, to say the least. But Joe loved our script, so we know we did right by the story, and – as our friend Eric Shapiro said – all it takes is one crazy SOB to pull the trigger and make it happen. And just as adapting the story was a labor of love for us, I do believe that getting the movie made could become a labor of love for a producer or director who wants to make a splash, because, if nothing else, any film version of “The Night They Missed the Horror Show” would get a hell of a lot attention.

When you love a film, you really love a film! When did you first fall in love with movies? What are your favorite films from this decade? What are your three favorite films of all time? Why?

As for falling in love with movies, well – given our age – we’re both Star Wars babies, aren’t we? I’d loved movies before that, but seeing it with my Dad at the age of four was The Big Moment. However much we all might hate how George Lucas exploited and betrayed his creation, the importance of that film, as well as the Steven Spielberg films of the Close Encounters/Raiders of the Lost Ark era, can’t be understated in terms of that initial childhood awe.

Then came Stanley Kubrick, and that changed everything again. And then Coppola and Scorsese and Malick and Lynch and Oliver Stone and then foreign films (Bergman, Godard, Tarkovsky, et al.)…well, the list is endless.

Favorite films from this decade – I’m going to go since 2000, which is just over a decade. In no particular order, totally off the top of my head:  The Hurt Locker, Cache, Children of Men, Tell No One, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Family Portraits:  A Trilogy of America, The Tree of Life, Melancholia, Antichrist, and Zodiac. I’ll probably think of a dozen more as soon as I send this to you, but those movies give a pretty good indication of where my head has been cinematically since the turn of the century. 

Three favorite films of all time: This is so tough, and I have to cheat slightly.  Since there must be a Kubrick, either 2001: A Space Odyssey or Barry Lyndon, really a coin toss; then probably Chinatown, because that was the movie that made me want to write movies; then…wow…today I’m going to say Apocalypse Now.  But, again, there are so many contenders.

What was the first thing you read that made you want to write?
Probably Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. I was reading those at a relatively early age, because I loved the films. Even though I loved children’s books when I was a very young (ie. – before I got to 007), I didn’t think in terms of writing anything until I was maybe 10 or 11.

What lights you up?
The people in my life I love and who love me. Writing. Animals, particularly cats.  Cool books and movies and music.  Traveling. 

What shuts you down?

My diabetes. Losing people and animals I love. Monstrous events, whether it’s invading Iraq or what just happened in Aurora, Colorado. Willful stupidity and ignorance. Gaspar Noe movies.

What are you working on right now?

Well, of course, a few things are brewing with you, including a new novel and a couple of screenplays. And I’m in research mode for a secret solo project – a screenplay – that’s based on a true story that is fantastically amazing and no one has ever written a book or made a movie about. 

I’m also, in the spirit of turning forty, working on getting health together, both physically (by taking better care of my diabetes) and mentally (by dipping a tentative existential toe into the calming pool of Buddhism).

I realize, of course, that we’re going to release the two Afterwords we wrote for The Dark when the book comes out. These stories behind the story, sadly, didn’t make it into the finished book. In the meantime, Scott, please share with us the broad strokes of the story behind The Dark.

Our dear friend, editor, and all-round legend John Skipp and I were watching a spectacularly bad movie from 1978 called The Dark. And Skipp mentioned an idea he had for a story using the same title. I was fascinated and haunted by the idea he told me, which was about the night the dark becomes sentient and malevolent. I asked Skipp if he was going to write it; he said, “No.” Then I asked if he’d mind me taking a crack at it and he said, “Yes.”
Then he went above and beyond the call of duty by helping me plot the story out on a couple of hundred notecards, which was an incredible experience because I was getting to work with a master.

However, just as I was getting ready to start to work on it, my girlfriend Amy Wallace, our friend Del Howison, and I sold the proposal for The Book of Lists Horror to HarperCollins, and suddenly everything went on the backburner. But, even after we finished that book, I was finding it hard to get back to The Dark.  That was back in 2008.

Well, last year, when Skipp was hired as editor of the Ravenous Shadows line, the first thing he asked me was “What are you thinking about The Dark?”  We’d put in so much work on conceptualizing it, and I knew he’d always been a little disappointed that I hadn’t done it. 

I answered that I thought I should do it with you.
Skipp grinned and said, “You guys write me a proposal.”

We finished lunch and I picked up the phone to call you. And here we are.

Tell everyone a little bit about “Straycation,” the story we have in John Skipp’s forthcoming Psychos anthology.
It’s such a cool story – I’m so proud of it, and it really owes its existence to you. I had another idea for the anthology – a notion that I’d had a long time ago and could never crack – that I threw out. You gamely did a really solid draft, but couldn’t crack it either.  It just wasn’t firing for us.  But then you sent me a story that you said had just poured out of you with the awesome title of “Straycation.”  I read it and was blown away; it was an incredible first draft, and I saw exactly what I could bring to it. But, man, as far as the concept – which Skipp called “kind of genius” – that was all you, amigo.

The happy ending postscript to this is that when we nailed down “Straycation” and I told my girlfriend Amy that we weren’t going with the other story, she asked why.  I said that we just couldn’t crack it – that it would take someone like Patricia Highsmith (author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, among numerous other classics) to pull it off.  Well, Ms. Highsmith happens to be one of Amy’s idols, so that intrigued her. She took it, in the best sense, as a little bit of a challenge, and asked if I’d mind if she tried a version of the story (shades – no pun intended - of me and Skipp and how The Dark came to be) and I said go for it.

She wrote an amazing story, and submitted it to Skipp. Alas, it didn’t make the Psychos book, though it came very close. But then she submitted it to another market and got an instant acceptance.
Just goes to show, for any writers out there, not to give up, and just because something might get accepted in one market, it has every chance of being perfect for the next one.

You conceptualized “Angela & the Angel,” the story we have in Trent Zelazny’s MIRAGES. Where did that story come from?

Skipp’s anthology prior to Psychos was Demons.  However, at an early point, the publisher was apparently thinking about making it involve angels as well as demons.  I couldn’t come up with anything that wasn’t obvious or cliché involving demons, so I started thinking angels.  And somehow this dark fairy tale just popped into my head during a drive out to Palm Springs.  I took the idea to you and we worked it.

The story, which as I said is very dark, has had an appropriately tortured history since then, starting with the fact that Skipp’s publishers decided to go solely with demons as the anthology’s theme.  From there…well, let’s just say that the story went through multiple iterations and mutations – one of them so extreme that it resulted in an entirely separate story!  So I’m really happy that our odd, troubled little tale – about an odd and troubled young woman named Angela – finally found a really cool home in Trent’s anthology.

How excited are you to be sharing a TOC with Thomas Harris? What has his work meant to you on a personal level?

I’m excited beyond words, especially since Harris doesn’t write short fiction, so one doesn’t see him in TOCs (the piece in Skipp’s Psychos is an amazing excerpt from the classic Red Dragon).

On a personal level, his novels – even the worst of them (looking at you, Hannibal Rising!) – have always fascinated me. Red Dragon is one of my favorite books, in any genre, period.  And his writing is really like no one else’s, in or out of the thriller and horror genres. There are sentences, particularly in Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, by Harris that blow me away with their lyricism and complexity, even though he’s not, in any way, a particularly difficult or dense writer on the surface.

He’s simply one of the greats. It’s sharing a TOC with the Godfather of the Modern Psychological Horror Story.

You’ve taken some pretty amazing trips with your father over the last couple years. How has this strengthened your relationship with your dad? Of all the places the two of you have visited, what’s your favorite? Why? What’s your least favorite? Why?

It’s brought my Dad and me together in ways I never would have dreamed possible. And, believe me, it’s not like we were ever estranged or anything like that. 

It goes back to the fact that in early 2006 I lost my Mom in a completely unexpected way. Literally, on New Year’s Day, 2006, she and my Dad went to go see the movie Munich; on January 2nd she died. One of those one in a million things that just ends the world for a whole family: my Dad, me, and my two sisters (not to mention everyone who loved my Mom, who was much beloved by family and friends). 

My Mom worked for the airlines the last few years of her life, and because of that she and my Dad were able to take trips all over the world that would’ve never been financially possible otherwise. They saw all the great cities of the world; they would do things like spend a three-day weekend in Argentina. Just amazing.

After losing her, my Dad – and I completely understand this – honestly felt like he could never get on an airplane or do any traveling again; it was just too intimately connected to her. 

And it was hard between my Dad and me, because we could barely get on the phone without just starting to grieve for my Mom. Again, not at all an estrangement, just really rough emotional territory. We did a lot of our communication via email. 

A couple of years passed, and while I don’t think it’s at all true that time heals all wounds, I do believe it can be healing to some extent. 

My Dad is a Vietnam veteran, and one of the things he’d wanted to do all of his life was take a trip back to Vietnam.  See with older eyes what he saw when he was 20. I should note, by the was, that my Dad – due to his astounding mind for technical matters – did not serve in combat, so the notion of the trip, while profound, wasn’t as emotionally loaded as it might be for some veterans. 

He and my Mom never made that trip. So I suggested that he and I make it. At first, he was – understandably – enormously reluctant. But I planted the seeds, and he started looking into the logistics of it: the financial viability and all that.  Slowly, but surely, a trip began to take shape. 

One of the things I wanted to do was go during the Tet Holiday, which is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It’s a huge deal there, and probably the worst, most complicated time to go as a tourist. The reason I wanted to do this is because one of my long-term projects is a book, with comics writer Jason Aaron (Scalped), about the late Gustav Hasford, author of the novel The Short-Timers, which was the basis for Kubrick’s Vietnam film Full Metal Jacket (Jason, I might add, happens be the cousin of Gus Hasford). As your readers probably remember, the story of the book/film take place mostly during the 1968 Tet Offensive, with particular focus on the brutal urban combat that took place in the city of Huế. So I wanted to go during the holiday and I wanted to be in Huế on Tet itself. 

Well, my Dad moved heaven and earth to make this happen. In February, 2010, we started in Saigon (it still just doesn’t feel right to call it Ho Chi Minh City) and worked our way north, and on Tet we were in Huế, having drinks and dinner at the DMZ Bar. If that’s not a profoundly bonding father/son moment, I don’t know what is.

Since then, we’ve been to Thailand four times (and let me assure your readers none of them were for the reason a lot of Western men go to Thailand, though on our last trip we did make our way down to the famous Soi Cowboy red light district to gawk at the spectacle); Laos; Cambodia; and Myanmar (formerly Burma).  We’re already starting to talk about a possible trip to Mongolia and maybe another trip to Vietnam.

As to favorite, well – that Vietnam trip was just magical, so that was my favorite trip. But actually, my favorite country in Southeast Asia is Laos, which I like to refer to as the greatest place very few people have ever been. My Dad and I even agree that it, in particular the former capitol, Luang Prabang, is the place in SE Asia we’d want to live. Laos is just…words fail.  It’s so beautiful; the people are so gentle; it’s still largely unspoiled and un-Westernized. 

I should add, as well, that my Dad and I both just love Bangkok, Thailand. It’s just such an amazing city; even the sleazier sex trade aspects are surprisingly well-regulated and not depressing. And it’s got the biggest, weirdest shopping mall I’ve ever been in, the MBK, which is sort of like Blade Runner inside an enormous building. 

Least favorite? Alas, that would be Cambodia. That’s not to say I regret in the least going there, particularly getting to see Angkor Wat, one of the most extraordinary set of ruins on Earth (and the visual basis for certain aspects of the Kurtz compound in Apocalypse Now). But after what that country went through under Pol Pot – well, it’s amazing there’s any society at all. The whole country, particularly the capitol, Phnom Penh, just reeks of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It was a sobering and instructive trip, but an emotionally difficult one.

In 2008, you co-edited The Book of Lists: Horror (HarperCollins), which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. There are so many great lists in that book, and I know this is kind of unfair, but tell us about 3 or 4 of the lists that excited you most.

Oh, I can’t answer this question. They all excited me. But, of course, it was staggering – and full credit for scoring this goes to Del Howison – to score a list from Ray Bradbury, particularly since he passed so recently. But, no – they’re all great lists and I love them all and thank our contributors for giving them to us.

At the risk of not having enough dinosaurs in this interview, tell us why you love the dinosaur sequence in The Tree of Life.

This has, of course, become something of a joke amongst my friends, particularly on Facebook. But it’s true – that whole Creation sequence, and in particular the dinosaurs, really moved me.

Part of it is, still being kind of a little boy at heart, I love dinosaurs. And it was cool to see them in something about as far from Jurassic Park as you can get (not that there’s anything wrong with Jurassic Park). 

I’m also really fascinated and moved by what that sequence, to me, suggests: the birth of empathy. Besides, admiring the sheer 2001-like ambition of it alone is amazing. The fact that Malick, in the midst of  what is essentially a domestic drama, chose to try to illustrate this – and with dinosaurs, no less (not what we tend to think of as exemplars of empathy), just blows me away. 

And I like the ambiguity of it. Maybe that one dinosaur really did get distracted by something and that’s why it didn’t harm the other dinosaur. I find that pretty hard to believe, given my reading of Malick’s oeuvre, but it’s a great argument to have with people who think the inclusion of that sequence is one of the dumbest decisions ever made by any filmmaker.  

You eat at House of Pies almost every day. What do you order? Why House of Pies?

It’s pretty much always breakfast and I go through periods of ordering the same thing and then switch to something else. Right now I’m doing scrambled eggs, corned beef hash, hash browns, and an English muffin, sometimes with a side of extra-crispy bacon. They have amazing corned beef hash, by the way.

As to why House of Pies? Besides the fact I can walk to it, the place is just such a cool environment. It’s like a David Lynch movie. Interesting people eat there:  Lots of cops; eccentric old people; frayed hipsters. I’ve heard (and this is probably just a folktale, but if it isn’t true it ought to be) that Tarantino used to eat and write there before he got famous. I know for a fact that Forrest J. Ackerman did. One night around 1am a friend and I crossed paths with David J. Schow there. Like I said, interesting people.
And the staff is crackerjack. Career waitresses – no 25 year-old wannabe actresses; the ladies at House of Pies know their work and do it exceedingly well. 

It’s just an awesome place and I recommend it to anyone who loves a good diner. Tell ‘em Scott Bradley sent you.
What is your greatest fear?

Dying is up there. Losing those I love. That Brett Ratner will continue making movies.
What is your greatest hope?

There’s a line in the movie Who’ll Stop the Rain (based on the great novel Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone) where one of the characters says, in the midst of a drug deal gone horribly awry, “I’ve waited all my life to fuck up like this.” I dearly hope I never have to utter a similar sentiment.
What’s on the horizon from Scott Bradley?

I don’t know. But whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll post about it on Facebook.

What else would you like everyone to know?
Peter Giglio rocks.

Fantastic interview, Scott. Thank you for your time.



Facebook page for THE DARK:

Scott Bradley's Facebook page:!/scott.bradley.92

Friday, July 20, 2012


In a few short weeks, The Dark, a novel I co-wrote with Scott Bradley (my dear friend and frequent collaborator), enters the world. I always get nervous right before a book launches, but this one is a little different. Thing is, I’ve never wanted a book to succeed this much.

Why is this one so special to me?

First and foremost, I wrote it with Scott, who I’ve known since the fourth grade. He’s my best friend; we’ve been through a lot together. So this is a pretty big deal for me. And secondly, it was edited by John Skipp, who’s a lot more than an editor on this project, but I won’t get into those details now. When the book comes out, Scott and I will share the two Afterwords for The Dark (one by him, one by me) that, sadly, didn’t make it into the finished book. These accounts will spell out the stories behind the story.

So I got to work with two of my favorite people in the world. But there’s more.
Scott and I had a few creative fights over The Dark. I won’t get into what those scuffles were about or who won the arguments or who was right. And don’t worry, we don’t offer up multiple endings in the book. My point is this: Those fights brought us closer, they made the book better, and they caused us to care more about the story than if either of us had written the book solo. Let me be clear, Scott and I didn’t fight frequently. We also laughed a lot, congratulated each other often, and had a shitload of fun!

Bottom line: I built this one with my best friend. Of course it means more to me! In fact, I’ll be interviewing Scott on his birthday, which is next Wednesday; tune in for that, ‘cause he’s going to have a lot to say on this subject. Oh, and he's turning 40.
In short, I hope you all read The Dark. It's a horror novel that's in love with being a horror novel, but for me it's so much more.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

MoreHorror Exclusive: Eric Shapiro Interviews Writer Peter Giglio | - Horror News, Movie Reviews, Exclusive Interviews

MoreHorror Exclusive: Eric Shapiro Interviews Writer Peter Giglio | - Horror News, Movie Reviews, Exclusive Interviews


I’m honored to welcome Jeremy C. Shipp to my blog today. I’m a huge fan of his work, and I can’t wait to delve a little deeper into his mind. Won’t you join me?

I was delighted when I opened up Issue #66 of Cemetery Dance and saw a story from you. Then I read the tale, “Inside,” and was totally blown away. It’s one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read in a long time. Where did you find that story?
First of all, Peter, thank you for inviting me to your blog. I like what you've done with the place. This e-chair is cozy, and the interweb tea is to die for. Speaking of dying, my story "Inside" was born from various real world nightmares, such as factory farms. I find it more than a little horrifying when people treat other beings as if they are soulless. With these feelings swirling around in my gut, eventually I came up with the idea of a vending machine full of humans.

Tell us a little about Bizarro fiction. Where do you see yourself in this movement? What attracted you to Bizarro?

In a sense, I see Bizarro as a genre for tales that defy genre. This is a bit paradoxical, but that's OK, because Bizarro fiction eats paradoxes for breakfast (along with Boo Berry cereal and spambled eggs). I see myself on the horror and dark fantasy side of the Bizarro teeter-totter. I never think  today I'm going to write a Bizarro story or today I'm going to write a horror story. I just write whatever comes to my mind, and when I'm done I find a home for it where I can. I love the imagination and freshness of Bizarro fiction. It's an honor to be associated with the movement.

You have a wonderful and wicked, dark yet lighthearted sense of humor. It’s a strange mix, in my humble estimation, of deep meaning and utter ephemera. A brilliant juxtaposition. Where does this come from?

I'm a big fan of humor. I believe humor helps people to not only cope with darkness, but to defend themselves against it. Also, I like humor because it's funny. Humor's probably one of the funniest things in the world.

What is your personal favorite among your works? Your least favorite? Why?

I don't think I could choose a favorite story or book, but I can choose a couple favorite characters. Cicely from my novel CURSED and Globcow from my ATTIC CLOWNS collection. Cicely's a strong, caring person with a unique sense of humor. And Globcow: he's as evil as he is innocent, which is an interesting combination. I would have a lot of fun hanging out with these two (I mean, other than those moments when Globcow was eating my feet). My least favorite story is probably a horror story I wrote when I was a teenager. This story was never published (thankfully). There was way too much gore, and not nearly enough talking animals.

Why attic clowns? Tell us about these creatures and why they interest you.

It all started years ago when I bought an antique mirror at a yard sale. When I brought the mirror home, I realized that my reflection didn't look quite right in the mirror. My face was too white and my nose was too red. It creeped me out. So I put the mirror in the attic, and of course a demonic clown soon oozed his way out of the looking glass. At this point, there are about 1400 demonic clowns living up there. I'm not so much fascinated by them as I am tormented. Not a day goes by without a clown tossing a flaming pie at my face. I can't even count how many times I've been attacked by a giant rubber chicken. Anyway, I write about attic clowns in order to process these horrible yet pretty funny experiences.

That’s pretty much what I thought, but I had to ask. So, what are you working on right now?

I'm almost done with a new story collection called MONSTROSITIES. I'm also working on a novel, a screenplay, and a couple other projects.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Other than the projects that I already mentioned, there might be a movie eventually based on my novel CURSED. Also, there's a good chance I'll start work on a graphic novel in the near future.

Who are your literary influences? And what’s your all-time favorite book?

There are so many writers out there who influence and inspire me. I love Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, George Orwell, Amy Tan, Roald Dahl, Anthony Burgess. The list could go on and on. My favorite book might be The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I find her innovate use of language to be brilliant.

I had the pleasure of working with you a little on your ATTIC TOYS anthology. It’s a remarkable collection. Tell us a little bit about that book and the process involved with putting it together.

I had a blast working with you and Charles Day on this anthology. The editing process involved a lot of blood, sweat and tears (but mostly blood. Who knew that toys could bleed so much?). I received so many marvelous submissions from amazing writers around the world. I'm very happy with how the anthology turned out.

What lights you up?

Monsters, animals, nice/creative people, cheesy horror movies, sporks, plushies, peanut butter, forests, nerdy stuff.

What shuts you down?

Prejudices, abuses of power, heights, parties that aren't nerdy enough, bad movies that aren't cheesy, traffic cones.

You seem to be writing a lot of short fiction lately. Do you prefer short fiction?

The thing I like about short stories is that I can finish one in less than a year. But to be honest, I love writing novels more than anything. It's a special experience, sticking with the same group of characters for so long. They become my dear friends and my dear enemies. I let my stories end when they will, and most of my tales don't need to be novels in order to be told effectively.

You’ve written brilliant novels. Tell us a little about your process with long fiction? Do you outline? How do you work?

I often start a novel by brainstorming out ideas. I'll brainstorm again numerous times as I'm working through the story. As I'm writing, I'll have an idea where I want the novel to end up, but the story sometimes surprises me and takes me somewhere I didn't expect. I like to write organically. Let the story go where it needs to go, where the fun and the horror and the humor is.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read and write every day. Don't give up on your dreams, no matter what people might say (even if they're wearing top hats and monocles). Connect with other writers. Have fun. Write what you would enjoy reading.

What else would you like everyone to know?

1. Never insult a demon's mustache.
2. Not all Care Bears actually care about you. I learned that the hard way.
3. If an attic clown offers you a candy shaped like your head, don't eat it.

Thank you for being my guest today, Jeremy. Stay for a bit, and I'll make another pot of that interweb tea you like so much.
The rest of you, go out and buy some of Jeremy's books; he's got a bunch of 'em and they're all great. Here's a link to his Amazon Author Page where you can browse at your leisure:
Join my next week for more guests, more discussions, and more information. In the meantime, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Craig Saunders is a terrific writer whose latest novel, THE LOVE OF THE DEAD, has just been released by Evil Jester Press. It’s a privilege and an honor to welcome him to my blog to discuss this pulse-pounding ghost story/detective tale.

Tarot cards play a large role in your new book, and you seem to know what you’re talking about. Tell us, was this due to research on your part, or do you have a background in Tarot?

I did a ton of research, and I have a pack of tarot, too...well, I don't, per se, but my wife does and she's a bona fide witch ;) Don't tell her I said that! Hang on, this is public, isn't it? Erm...

She's not really a witch, but she is a medium. There's a small part of her in Beth Willis, although her experiences as a medium haven't been anywhere near as traumatic.
That's the long and short of it, really – she sees dead people! For real, and everything. I was never really a believer in any kind of religion, and I'm still not what I'd call a devotee of religion or even the dark arts, but I've seen enough to believe that some things you can't see, can't touch, can still be real. She's a great inspiration for the character, and some of her stories have led, in a roundabout way, to my stories...I'm thinking in particular of A Stranger's Grave (published this year) and A Home by the Sea (due 2013).

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one?

Haha - I'm going to sound like a right crackpot, but I write horror fiction, so people kind of expect you to be a crackpot (Right, Peter? Right...? Come on man, back me up here!). England's a largely secular country, so people have all kind of beliefs and disbeliefs. Like I said before, I don't necessarily believe in God or Christ or Buddha or the Jedi. I'm an agnostic, at best. But I do see white birds when people die. I have seen the ghosts of cats and dogs and shadow people from the corner of my eye, and once a bird saved my life. Once my wife saved my life, too. She had a vision of three deer on the road...I rounded a corner, looking out for deer (we live in the country) and there were three deer – next bend, a blind corner, I narrowly avoided a head on collision with an idiot on the wrong side of the road...

I guess the white birds thing boils down to a kind of omen...well, hell, it is an omen... I hate seeing white birds.

And I don't mean silly white birds, like a chicken or a dove, that are white anyway, but like an albino version of a bird that isn't ordinarily white...

Crackpot, right?

Hey, I’m not here to judge. (Turns to bartender) I’ll have what he’s having. (Back to Craig) Moving on: Paranormal stories seem to be making a big comeback in horror fiction. Why do you think that is?

I think people are a little tired of zombies and vampires and werewolves (oh my!) to be honest. You can only reinvent the vampire so often before it becomes drab. I know you've written a vampire novella (and a cracker, too – I've read it!), and I've written a vampire novel...but I think for me it was more a rite of passage as a horror writer. I figure you have to have a vampire novel under your belt or your horror pants will fall down...hmm...note to self: Delete that before sending...

So, going old school is, in effect, the new school. Some of my favorite tales have a paranormal element. The work of Bill Hussey, pre William Hussey days, is really my favorite, my booky-bezzy-buddy, but also Tim Lebbon's earlier work, and a novel I read recently, Heart-Shaped might have heard of it ;)

Hmm, how long is it socially acceptable to ramble on in an interview? Let's find out...

Paranormal, frankly, rocks. Zombies sell, but I personally find them cute, rather than intellectually challenging for the reader. Don't get me wrong, zombies are fun, but limited – I feel. Ghosts and superstitions...they play into the reader's fear of the dark, rather than the reader's fear of the grotesque...

As you can tell, I haven't really thought this through, but in conclusion – and hopefully in answer to your question – I think (and no doubt stand to be corrected!) reader's gore buttons have been pushed so many times that they've become desensitized to blood and guts. Maybe that's just me. Hell, this whole answer is just me, right? As I can only answer for me, I think it's time horror grew up. Again.

What’s your favorite ghost story?

Peter Straub's Ghost Story, right up there. Heart-Shaped Box (Joe Hill) for sure. But like I said before, I love Bill Hussey, so either Through a Glass, Darkly, or The Absence, both of which have strong paranormal elements.

The structure of THE LOVE OF THE DEAD is very taught—not the slightest bit of extraneous material—and it takes place over a very short period of time, which gives it a real sense of urgency. What was your primary influence for this story?

I think, structurally, in order to make it taut I stick to short sentences, short chapters – someone (I think it was Elmore Leonard, but I might be wrong!) said, “Cut out all the parts people don't read.” I try to do that, and treat each book the same way— write fast, write for a fast read...keep it simple!

Like I said before, my primary influence for the story was my wife and her experience as a medium, but also through research into the mythology behind the story – which I won't go into, because I don't want to spoil it, but a small part of this was old stories about seagulls and ravens...I go far and wide for a story. (Oh, alright, I look things up on Wikipedia!)

According to the time stamp in the back of THE LOVE OF THE DEAD, it looks like you wrote it between August and September of 2010. Now here it is in print two years later. A lot of aspiring authors don’t understand the timelines for writing vs. publication. Tell us about the lifecycle of this particular novel.

The timelines I add at the back of my novels are for the first drafts – a first draft of a horror novel for me is usually somewhere between 40 and 50K. The second draft will be a little beefier. I don't often do more than two drafts, but sometimes I'll do a third, or, if an editor becomes involved, however many it takes!

Sometimes you might be asked for a rewrite, but usually it will be fairly minor. But in my experience good editors aren't afraid of asking an author to chop things up a bit, and good writers aren't afraid of editors, either.

But, getting off my soapbox for a minute, The Love of the Dead ran through my hands twice, and the second draft I submitted to Evil Jester Press...after a period for it to be read, then it went to my editor, the rather wonderful Gregory L. Norris, and through another period for artwork...then publication has to be scheduled around other works to be released by the press/publisher...

So, yes, although writing a novel can be quite a quick process, from pitch to publication can take considerably longer.

D.I. Coleridge is an odd and fascinating character. A crass, lost man who we learn to love through the course of the novel. Tell us about Coleridge. What was your inspiration for him?

This is the part where I shoot myself in the foot, because I figure people want to know an interesting story behind him, but the truth is he was all typing and telling lies :)

I tend to write broken characters – I find them more interesting, more real, than the superhero kind of characters you get in many books. I found him appealing because he's hard as nails, but insecure, hurt, and a little wobbly in the morals department. That said, he's a kick-ass cop. He's one of my favorite characters to date...I seriously thought about putting him into other novels, but I think I'd feel like I was cheating him.

I also love the character of Beth. A wounded soul, like Coleridge, but a sympathetic figure nonetheless. Where did you find Beth?

As before, Beth's a combination of me telling lies and my wife. I quite often write female characters – I find them interesting. I really felt for her, and she started out on the page as kind of a cliché, but as I wrote her I warmed to her...she's a good character, I think. My wife's my inspiration for many of my female characters. I don't know many other women. I have to say that, just in case she's reading this...she'll kill me!

What’s your favorite book? Why?

I've spoken about Bill Hussey, and he's one of my favorite authors, though he only penned two horror novels that I know of. I love Stephen King and pretty much all of his works (though, sorry Mr. King, I did prefer you drunk). I like Peter Straub. But my favorite novel? It's an almost impossible question, as I read within the genre and outside, but I'll have to plump for two (sorry!) that I've read more than any other novels on my shelves: The Stand (King) and The Lord of the Rings (Tolkein).

What lights you up?

That's a lovely question, and that lights me up :) I think the one thing that lights me up over and above all else (I like bacon, coffee, music, PC games, the rain, and so many other things) has got to be nice people. Just a random act of kindness, or a smile, or a sweet word...not any one specific thing that people do, just nice people. I like nice people. That's it.
What shuts you down?

The news! I'm such a grumpy so-and-so when it comes to the news. I figure if I want to be afraid, I can just walk down to the local pub on a summer's eve and see a tattooed guy with no shirt walking his pitbull. If I want to be scared I can listen to the weird noises in my house as I try to sleep. I don't need to be afraid of current events.

If there ever is a real zombie outbreak, I'll be the last to know, because I won't see it coming, and to be frank (can I be Frank? :P ) I'll be all the happier for it.

Your editor on THE LOVE OF THE DEAD was the brilliant Gregory L. Norris. Tell us a little bit about working with Gregory.

I'm proud to count Gregory as one of my favorite people in the whole world, and a friend, too. He was a friend before he came to edit The Love of the Dead, and he's a pro; definitely someone I look up to professionally. I was over the moon to find out that Gregory was to edit my novel - truly honored. He's got more publications under his belt that many people who have been writing for sixty years, and he's only a whippersnapper in his (don't shoot me, Greg!) 40s...though he looks a lot younger ;)

It's a relief to be in the hands of such an accomplished author and editor, and when the edits came back I was over the moon.

It's easy to edit the voice out of a novel, impossible to edit it back in. Thankfully, Gregory was sympathetic to my voice and preserved it, while making the novel better than it would ever have been without his steady hand. He's a good fella.

What’s on the horizon from Craig Saunders?

It may sound strange to readers of this blog, those interested parties who've made it to this, the penultimate question, but I haven't been a published novelist for a whole year yet! In that year I've had four novels published traditionally, and have gone the indie route with everything I've written in genres other than horror. I consider myself a horror writer, and won't ever self-publish my horror. Traditional all the way for the horror. Don't think I'm denigrating Indie authors – I'm one of those, too!

So, I've published a total of 12 novels and 2 collections in under a year. I think the future holds promotion, learning the ropes of publishing and the industry, reading more, and hopefully the completion of three non-horror projects. I also have a novella, The Walls of Madness, slated for a Halloween release, and a novel, A Home by the Sea, due in 2013. Oh, I'll also be signing at Cardiff Comic Con in March next year, when A Home by the Sea is launched. That will be my first book signing, a little over a year after publishing my first novel. I'm really stoked about that.

Erm...there's more, but I think that will do for now, don't you?

What else would you like everyone to know?

Haha - I'd like people to know that what goes around comes around, a little love goes a long way, and to take care of your teeth :)

On a more personal note, I'd like people to know one more thing:

If you're an aspiring writer reading this, I may sound like I'm a big shot. I'm not. I just really work hard. This is what I want to do, what I love to do...a little advice, then, unsolicited, but valid nonetheless:

Writing is damn hard. Get on with it!

Ha. Time to take my own advice and scoot. Lastly, big old thank you, Peter, for this interview. I think this is the most I've “spoken” about my writing in forever and I have to say, I've really enjoyed having a good ramble. Thank you for the opportunity. It's been a real pleasure.

Cheers! links to buy THE LOVE OF THE DEAD:
And be sure to tune in Thursday, right here, for an interview with Jeremy C. Shipp.