Kevin Strange is one of the most divisive names in underground literature. He is outspoken, unapologetic, and (to many people’s chagrin) extremely talented. Some see this iconoclastic, award nominated writer of dark fiction and bizarro as a thorn in the side of genre fiction. Others see him as a unlikely champion of sanity in the tumultuous era we live in.
Kevin was kind enough to take some time away from his busy schedule and answer a few questions for this first edition of Wyrd Interviews. We talk art, work ethic, ICP, and politics.
Trigger warning – Kevin holds nothing back!
Kevin, you are kind of an indie Jack of all trades. You’ve made cult films, written award nominated novels, built a podcast following, and even teach writing courses from time to time. What is your favorite outlet and what advantages to you find in going it alone?
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, brother. I’m fairly radioactive to the writing community these days. It’s good to see someone has the balls to actually associate with me publicly. Maybe the worm is starting to turn?
To answer the first part of your question, writing fiction seems to be my favorite outlet because I’ve done more of it for longer than I’ve ever done anything else, creatively. But I just love creating. It’s addicting. It’s what I consider the most precious gift of humanity. What are we if not star-stuff created in the universe’s own image, made self-aware so that the vast, unfathomable consciousness in the outer reaches of space can experience itself?
As for the second part of your question, I have a blast collaborating on projects like feature films and podcasts with my friends Jeremy Maddux and Travis D. But I’m very much a control freak and a perfectionist. I’m never really, truly satisfied with a project unless I’ve seen it through from the very first spark of inspiration through to the final product that I put into my fans’ hands. Only then do I feel the deepest sense of satisfaction from creating art. I liken it to building a house from scratch or running a long distance marathon. True unfiltered art is a solitary medium, I think.
You’ve built a Strangeville brand around your work. What kind of unifying themes do you put in your works? What makes Strangeville stand out in the horror and bizarro landscape.
Strangeville is a state of mind. Literally. It’s all of the contradictory voices in my head fighting for dominance distilled down and laser focused into art. In my films, the small, white-trash midwestern town of Strangeville contained all of my characters and monsters and outlandish stories. Each movie ties in with the next building a bigger and bigger B-movie universe like Lloyd Kaufman did with Troma or Marvel comics does with their characters.
With my fiction, it’s a bit more subtle. There are small connections here and there, with characters and themes arching over from one story to the next. Most of my stories take place in a fictional Illinois town next to the Mississippi river called Hopp’s Hollow. Even the stories which take place in far-flug post-apocalyptic futures have hints of Hopp’s Hollow in them.
Unlike Strangeville which exists as a cartoony parody of real life, Hopp’s Hollow is a dark and serious place full of people suffering in mental and spiritual agony. Hopp’s breeds existential nightmares and often times those nightmares are made manifest in the flesh. Strangeville and Hopp’s Hollow are I guess a kind of yin and yang of the human condition. Two aspects of the same tortured comedy of existence. Twins suns of chaos and madness.
What makes my stories stand out in the horror and bizarro landscape, I think, is a raw humanness to my characters. Each possesses fatal flaws that, while almost always ultimately spell doom for them, are often the keys to save humanity at large. They are tragic heroes, silent martyrs. Also, a lot of bizarro fiction is set in unrealistic fantasy worlds. Like children’s books for adults or Saturday morning cartoons told as prose. My fiction is far more grounded in reality with the characters, plots and monsters evolving into the outrageous, almost never just starting there. Kevin Strange fiction starts real and ends insane.
I know you’re a juggalo. I’m fairly familiar with ICP and Psychopathic Records, and I’ve always admired what they managed to build on their own terms. I see some similarities between your DIY attitude toward business and theirs. Would it be fair to guess that you drew some inspiration on how to work as independent artist from ICP?
Absolutely. But not just ICP. I’ve always been a sucker for the gimmick. Pro wrestling, The Misfits, GWAR, ICP, all of the over-the-top theatrical shit inspires me. I’m white trash till I’m dead in the ground. Unabashedly. That’s who I am and I am proud as fuck of it, much to the chagrin of the writing world at large which can’t ever stop huffing its own farts long enough to realize how much its epic condescension and pretentiousness have become parody.
It was after reading ICP’s book “Behind The Paint” that I really found my hunger for DIY promotion. I’d already been flirting with writing screenplays and shooting little skits and parts of short films, but after reading about just how much fun and how much work ICP put into their underground, independent promotion, I had to get a taste of it myself. I’ve spent every moment of my life ever since pushing Strangeville to the people of planet Earth. I’ve won film awards, writing awards, been reviewed in the biggest horror mags like Fangoria, and traveled from coast to coast mile after mile year after year slanging my wares, shaking hands, signing autographs, taking pictures, making haters and wannabes jealous and sleeping with beautiful women.
I get shit daily for proudly supporting ICP and Juggalos but there would literally be no Kevin Strange without the guiding hand of Insane Clown Posse. That’s just a fact. And that will never change, no matter how many shitty stuck-up authors make fun of me for it. I thrive on their ridicule. It fuels me to work harder and win more. I NEVER get tired of winning.
Have you considered expanding out into other art forms? With a background in prose and film it would seem that comics might be something of a natural fit for you. I’d love to see a Guts graphic novel.
I have kicked around the idea of doing a comic book with my current cover artist and collaborator William Skaar. He is a professional comic book artist and the creator of the Carnigor. We desperately want to do a comic project together but it’s all about finding the right project and the right time for both of us. It will happen. Look for that Kickstarter campaign sooner than later!
I’ve heard you talk a lot about work ethic in the arts, and how it is key to what you do. Care to elaborate on that a bit?
At some point, writers stopped writing and started hanging out on internet forums, discussion groups and social media pages. If a typical business work-load is carried by the square root of its number of employees, the “writing community” has to be ten to one. Fuck, a hundred to one. For every prolific, hard working writer busting his ass to crank out stories and books for his fans, you’ve got a hundred armchair “writers” who do well to publish 15,000 words a year. Some publish 15,000 words EVER but you’d never know it for how far their nose is stuck up the ass of the online writing community. They try to be influential and a part of every dramatic flair-up that happens online or at conventions, yet their contribution to Letters is minimal at best.
The best advice I ever got from a professional author was, if you want to make it in this business, write 150,000 words a year. If you want to make it in half that time, write 250,000 words. That’s it. That’s the key to success. Not how many facebook friends you have. Not how many times a day you post your Amazon links in writers’ groups. It’s sitting down in front of your fucking computer and writing books. All the time. As many as you can. My goal is 100 books before I die. I won’t make it, but I promise you that when I’m dead, there will be an unfinished WIP on my desktop that I was trying to crank out that last 25,000 words of before my ticket got punched. Believe that.
Pulp writers used to understand this. Writing fiction has never been a lucrative enterprise. Maybe for a small period in the 80s and early 90s. And now, for some reason, everyone treats writing like you’re always just one young adult distopian novel or paranormal romance away from retiring. When did people start treating art like lottery tickets? It’s shameful. Sit the fuck down and work for a living. If you don’t put the equivalent of a 40 hour work week into your prose, you don’t deserve to make a living at it. Period.
Let’s switch gears for a moment. To my knowledge, you are about the loudest voice in dark fiction speaking out against cultural Marxism and SJW culture. This goes against the accepted wisdom that writers should avoid politics and has put you at odds with a lot of people in the industry. Why do you find it worth speaking out?
I’m definitely not the loudest voice. That distinction goes to the Supreme Dark Lord himself, Vox Day who spearheaded the Rabid Puppies movement in the sci-fi/fantasy community when the Hugo Awards went retarded and tried to utilize Marxist equality of outcome determinism and oppression Olympics to pick nominees for its award. But I appreciate the sentiment. I TRY to be the loudest voice, that’s for damn sure!
I love the adage that writers should avoid politics because it is FOR SURE a one-way street. Spend 5 seconds on Twitter and you see Stephen King and JK Rowling triggered and hysterical calling for Donald Trump’s resignation every single day. Writers are only supposed to avoid talking about politics if they want to talk about the WRONG type of politics, I.E. any kind of conservative politics.
There’s one female writer I won’t mention by name who I used to go to bat for any time I could. I supported her work as much as any author can support another authors work, which is to say, all the time. Then, as the 2016 election season approached and SJWs started beating the drum of cultural Marxism harder and harder inside my writing community, her feminist and social justice rhetoric hit a fever pitch until she was literally trying to start public fights with me about the merits of the all female Ghostbusters movie.
I treated her like I try to treat all SJWs: like daddy. Which is to say, I remained calm, let her throw her temper tantrums and either totally ignored her outbursts or only responded with facts and logic, never getting emotionally charged. Several weeks before the election, she DMed me to let me know that she was deleting me from her social media because of all of my MRA (Men’s Rights Association) posts. I haven’t heard the term MRA since the election, btw. But I did recently swing by this chick’s Twitter, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s all anti-Trump propaganda all the time.
So the only time “don’t be political” applies is when you’re not pandering and virtue signaling to writing community Marxists. Otherwise, go to town!
As far as why I think it’s worth fighting cultural Marxism as a public figure? This is a culture war. You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. And when western culture finally grabs itself by the damn dick and figures out that social justice, feminism and cultural Marxism are cancer that is destroying the very fabric of society, I will stand proudly on the right side of history, having given zero fucks about my popularity or reputation during the peak of the culture wars. I’m a fucking patriot and soldier for truth and reason and GOD DAMN proud of it.
A while back you had a falling out with the bizarro community. Was that mainly because of your politics?
It was mainly because of THEIR politics. Specifically it was the infiltration of social justice and cultural Marxism into all online writing communities. I’ve always been at odds with ANTIFA jackoffs like Jeff Burk, but most recently the thing that really sent the SJW bizarros into orbit was when I called them out on their social media shaming of a BizarroCon attendee from the 2016 show.
You can hear all about it on my podcast READING TO STRANGERS where I break down the entire shitshow which basically involved a kid who developed a crush on the wrong man-hatting feminist and got called out publicly by her friends for daring to speak about his crush on his own travel-blog.
Matters escalated when famous horror author Brian Keene bravely stepped in to white-knight for said man-hater, claiming to have eye-witnessed the kid sexually harassing her at BizarroCon.
This was just patently false, so I called him out on it. Good intentions or not, the guy has too much power and too much clout in the industry to go around lying about kids half his age at horror cons just so he can play captain save-a-ho. So that got me banned from his podcast, which I’d recently guested on. I like Brian a lot as a human and as a badass horror writer. But I hate white-knights and I hate feminists, so I stood on the side of truth and called all those motherfuckers out.
At literally the same time this was going on, I got an anonymous email dropped into my lap that one of BizarroCon’s close friends, another author and attendee of the show had been brought up on federal charges for allegedly molesting a sleeping woman on an airplane flight. Worse, the father of the alleged victim was trying to post this information onto BizarroCon’s facebook page, but it was deleted, effectively using the convention’s social media platform to protect an alleged sexual predator.
Look, this always gets twisted as me hating this author and having it out for him. I keep saying I like the dude and he’s always been cool with me, but when you’re using your convention platform to ban one guy for doing nothing more than talking to a girl, while deleting posts from your page to protect your friend, I gotta err on the side of truth again. How about we STOP SOCIALLY SHAMING period. Then none of this shit would happen.
Anyway, like I said, you can listen to the whole saga on my podcast if you really want the full details. But that’s why bizarro doesn’t like me anymore. Incidentally my newest collection ALL THE TOXIC WASTE FROM MY HEART was still up for nomination for the big bizarro Wonderland award this year, so big props to them for maintaining their credibility even after I publicly roasted them for morally aggrandizing and virtue signalling only when convenient for them.
Any pragmatic or artistic advice for creative folks who lean right of center but might be afraid to openly admit it?
Yeah quit being a coward. History does not remember pussies. This is 1984. This is a fucking Orwellian nightmare. I thank God, I thank GOD Trump won that election. Had Hilary won, the internet would not be the same place. There would already be federal hate speech laws on the books and widespread internet censorship. Even without her lead, Silicon Valley is doing everything it can to curb conservative speech. Fuck your little career. This is bigger than ALL of us and all of our petty little careers. Fifty, a hundred years from now those of us who stood strong in the face of absolute cultural insanity and the infiltration of vile Marxist scumbags will be looked at as HEROES. Be a fucking hero. Stand up and fucking fight for your culture. Every person makes a difference.
Okay, fuck cliques and politics for now. Tell me about your new book, Beetle Brain.
Well, it’s for sure one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever written. I was up on the Oregon Coast writing novels with the Godfather of bizarro fiction, Carlton Mellick last year. We were marathon writing in a tiny ocean-side cabin with no phones, internet or cable TV. I finished my book I DIED IN A BED OF ROSES a couple of days earlier than he finished his book SPIDER BUNNY (both are available now on Amazon) so I decided to start another one. BED OF ROSES is an emotionally draining fucked up love story with mutants and monsters. It required a lot of mental energy to put together the mystery that encapsulates the story, and back and forth jumping through different time periods. It was like writing a literary jigsaw puzzle.
So when I finished that book, I needed to write something loose and fast and fun. I chose BEELTE BRAIN because it was literally a title I came up with when I misheard the lyrics of the Mistfists song “Attitude.” I heard “Inside your feeble brain, there’s probably a whore!” as “Inside your beetle brain, there’s probably a whore!” Yes really.
So I spent the next two days writing the most fucked up gratuitous sex and violence that I could before it was time to re-join civilization. The book is about Sue Ellen, a strung out stripper whose life is such a mess, she puts dumpster fires like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to shame. The appeal of the story for me was to write a main character whose every decision is worse than the last. I wanted to see just how fucked up I could make her life, and the lives of everyone around her. Like painting myself into a literary corner until there was no where left to go.
The result is not only my longest novel to date, but early reviews are already calling it the best bizarro fiction book of 2017. For a throw-away blow-off novel after I wrote the real one, I’ll take it!
Some of your stuff is way out there. What inspires you write such weird, off the wall material?
A steady diet of awesome 80s movies, Saturday morning cartoons, USA Up All Night cult movies and sneaking 70s porn out of my grandpa’s closet when I was a kid, I guess. I have no idea why I’ve always been drawn to the weird. It’s just who I am. I was picked on mercilessly as a kid. But I don’t cry about being bullied. It make me strong. It gave me personality and it made me who I am today. Being the outcast, the “other” the last kid picked for the dodge-ball team? I loved it. I got to live inside my head. I grew up largely alone even though I had siblings. My grandparents raised me to fend for myself so I just watched a ton of crazy movies, unattended, and drew pictures of insane monsters and naked girls. I don’t know why some people are built with an endless well of creativity to draw from and others aren’t. All I know is, when I want to write, I just sit down and do it. What lives in my head speaks and all I have to do is listen. Simple as that.
What books and films have had the most influence on you as a storyteller?
Lloyd Kaufman and John Waters movies. Sam Raimi, early Peter Jackson. Italian horror. Roger Corman exploitation flicks. Philip K. Dick. Harlan Ellison. Richard Laymon. Robert Anton Wilson. Anton Lavey. The list goes on and on. I am inspired by the weird men who defied modern convention and paved their own artistic path, popularity and acceptance be damned.
If budget, copyrights, etc… were not an issue, what would your dream project be? Any medium.
There are a lot of higher profile projects I’d like to tackle but most of them aren’t worth listing. I almost got to work on the KILLJOY killer clown movie series from Full Moon. I would love to write and/or co-direct one of those with my buddy John Lechago who makes them with Trent Haaga. Another project I would LOVE to write is an entry in the comic book series CROSSED. If you haven’t read it, it’s like an X rated version of The Walking Dead except instead of zombies, the planet’s population is infected with a virus that turns everyone into ultra-violent cannibalistic rapists. In fact, I like my idea for CROSSED so much, I might just tweak the details a little bit and write my idea as a novel instead.
What can we expect down the road from Strangeville?
More of the same. Always expect me to speak the truth, regardless of its popularity, regardless of who it offends. Expect a shit load of fiction from me always. Expect me to keep running my mouth on my podcast network and always expect the unexpected from Ole Kevin Strange. Thanks for talking with me, brother. If you want to keep up with me, you can hit up my website at KevinTheStrange.com, subscribe to my newsletter Strange Sayings, or subscribe to my podcast READING TO STRANGERS on iTunes. I’m currently releasing a serialized hardcore horror novella called SHE WAS ONLY A CLOWN for free in weekly installments every Saturday on my website from now to Halloween.