Interview with Andrew Boylan, author of Sacrifice!

Andrew Boylan is a novelist and screenwriter currently residing in Massachusetts. His debut novel, Sacrifice is a beautifully written cross-genre piece that blends together crime fiction and horror with a captivating southwest flavor.

On top of that Andrew is a hell of a guy who consistently shows his support for the New England Horror community and has organized events to help other authors spread their work. I’m excited to share this interview and I implore anyone reading this to check out his work!

Buy Sacrifice here!

Andrew Boylan

Andrew Boylan


Curtis Lawson:
Andrew, I know you have a history in film and screenwriting, but now your focus seems to be on prose. Can you tell us a bit about your history as a writer and the road to your first novel?

Andrew Boylan:
The truth is I always wanted to be a novelist and short story writer. I don’t think I ever really thought about become a screenwriter when I started out. I am a very slow reader, so I always enjoyed the short story form, because I could focus on a short story much better than I ever could a novel. For the first few years after college, I only wrote short fiction. At that time I was moving around a lot. I would land somewhere for a few months, take a job, get bored, and move on to the next place. All the while, scribbling stories in notebooks. However, around 25 I landed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When I moved into a small apartment there, I set a goal for myself. I said to myself I wouldn’t leave until I finish a novel. I figured it would be very tough to build a writing career as a short story writer. I knew I had to buckle down and write something longer. Something marketable. That seemed like a dirty word to me back then: Marketable. I was in love with writers like Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, Jean Genet, and Charles Portis. I just wanted to work crap jobs and write the stuff I was passionate about regardless of the market. But when I landed in Santa Fe I decided to look at writing as a vocation rather than a hobby. But I had no real idea how that would play out.

I stuck to my guns and wrote a very bad first novel. Very autobiographical. Long on self-indulgence, but short on story. However, I did manage to get an editor at Random House to read it. He wrote me a nice, long letter of encouragement. So I figured I should keep at it.

But during the two years it took me to write that novel my fiction interests began to change. I became obsessed with 1940s and 1950s hard boiled noir. Especially, crime stories set in the southwest and west coast. So I decided to write my next novel in the spirit of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain.

It was around this time that I got an invite to go out to L.A. and meet with a producer who liked some of my short stories. He wanted to turn them into a movie. So I flew out and we had lunch. That was that.

I went back to writing and working my day job. A few months later the producer called. He said he was sorry he couldn’t get the project off the ground with my stories. However, he did have some money to make a horror movie, and did I have any ideas.

So I lied and told him I had an idea. Then I hung up the phone and went to the public library and started digging around for a story.

What I came up with was actually the first incarnation of SACRIFICE. I wrote it as a film for that producer.

The screenplay almost instantly secured me an agent and a manager. The producer who originally wanted it went on to produce a network television show. The agent began shopping my screenplay around. That was when I learn an important lesson about Hollywood. Nobody in the film business is interested in the idea that you have. They are only interested in your next idea. They mostly likely won’t have read your screenplay. Nobody in Hollywood reads. They will tell you they love it and then fold their hands, and say, “What else do you have?”

What SACRIFICE did do for me was get me other jobs. It became my sample script. Because it was a horror script, I was seen as a horror writer, and I got jobs developing other people’s horror ideas, or fixing up scripts that weren’t working.

For several years, that was what I did. And I never got around to writing my own projects, or developing my own ideas. I worked on projects that would never have my name on it.

One of the things that most excited me when I moved back to New England was to start working my own ideas.

In fact, getting back to writing novels was really exciting to me because I could do what ever I wanted. I could write whatever story I wanted. I could write however I wanted. Screenwriting is a very focused art. Tell a screen story is rigorous and precise. You can’t explore characters the same way as a novel can. You can’t go off on digressions. You have to keep the character’s needs in the forefront at all times. There is a tremendous amount of structure involved.

Likewise, screenwriting is very collaborative. You are constantly bouncing ideas around with all the other people involved in the film.

I was particularly excited about being selfish with my material. I could write whatever I wanted and I didn’t need to get approval from a producer, or worry about a director rewriting me. It was very liberating.

It’s funny when I look at some of my reviews. Some people have taken real issue with the liberties I take in how I tell my story. At heart, I don’t care. Yes, I am as egotistical as the next person; I want people to love me. But, sometimes in life you have to take a chance. You have to say this is the story I am passionate about telling, and if certain people hate it then I will have to live with that.

I have sat in enough rooms in my life where fifteen people are struggling to determine exactly what an audience wants from a story. Sometimes you just have to say, there are people out there that don’t like what I do, and move on, and keep doing what I am passionate about. Keep telling the stories I want to tell in the way I want to tell them.

Sacrifice by [Boylan, Andrew]

CL:
Sacrifice is an unusual mash-up of horror, crime, and thriller with strong religious themes. What were your influences for the story?

AB:
I often call SACRIFICE horror noir. I am a huge fan of noir. When I was developing the idea as a screenplay I was very influenced by David Lynch. Wild at Heart. I also love the novels and short stories of Barry Gifford who wrote the source material for Wild at Heart. Story, or plot, let’s say, has never been of paramount importance to me. I usually get pretty bored with a story once I see the gears turning. I would prefer to have my senses overwhelmed.

I’m more interested in the feeling created by a book than what actually happens to the characters.

Nobody is better at that than David Lynch.

I feel similarly about the stories of Jim Thompson. He doesn’t have a full quiver of plots. His story mechanics seem to use the same gears. But he drags you into this dirty world. There is a deep disquiet he creates inside the reader when he pulls you into the heads of his characters.

I have always had very vivid nightmares. And I frequently experience night terrors. I wake up screaming. My wife has recounted entire conversations I have had at night that I can’t remember in the morning. I sleepwalk. Much of my nightmares surround aspects of my religious upbringing. But there is no way to logically explain a nightmare. So often times with the stories that I write I want to capture that experience of being trapped in a nightmare that at first glance might appear to be reality. I want my stories to have the flavor of a nightmare more than a perfectly executed three act structure.

I am also very influenced by the writings of several medieval monks who experienced visions. I think that contemporary literature is too focused on straightforward, realistic storytelling. It can be a little tiresome. I can’t imagine how someone would express a vision of God if they had to be constrained by a beginning, middle, or end.

There is a great debate amongst Biblical linguists if Genesis began “In the beginning…” or “In a beginning…” That one simple article unravels a story that has been written and rewritten over millennia. So I distrust stories which adhere to too rigid a structure.

CL:
How has your experience in the literary world been unique from your experience writing for film? Is there much overlap or are they wildly different?

AB:
I think there is a lot of overlap. The most obvious I guess would be because Sacrifice began as a screenplay. I have another horror screenplay that I have been flirting with developing as a novel too.

The biggest difference is the solitude of writing fiction. With a screenplay I am always collaborating with someone. I’m always bouncing ideas around with the director and producers. I spend very specific time alone when writing screenplays. Where as with my novels it is almost entirely alone.

Even when a book is done I have a hard time getting beta readers to commit to reading the manuscript. Whereas with a screenplay, it is so easy to read, and so quick, I can always get a lot of opinions.

CL:
You did a horror film called Home Sweet Home in 2012? What is the film about and how did it come about?

AB:
Home Sweet Home was born out of desperation.

I had been developing and reading scripts for a production company called ShadowCatcher based in Washington State. I was also working with an Emmy winning producer developing two of his projects. And other people were offering me work on their projects. However, I couldn’t get any of my own material made.

Also, my sister had been an actress in L.A. for a long time, and she became disillusioned with the business. She actually moved to Albuquerque to get some space from Hollywood. While she was living in New Mexico she met and fell in love with a guy who was a director.

So the three of us started talking about how we could make something really cheap that we could own. First, we made a short which was accepted at a few film festivals. After that we decided it was time to make a feature.

So we all pooled our resources and decided to roll the dice. We decided let’s bet on ourselves.

We had a cool house in the middle of nowhere in southern New Mexico that we could use. So we structured a home invasion movie around that house. We made a home invasion movie with a twist. Instead of the invaders breaking into the house, we set it up that they were squatters, and the main character invades their space. When the main character moves into the house, the squatters don’t want to leave. They begin a sadistic game to drive her out of her home.

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CL:
Has moving from the southwest to New England affected your writing? Does the change of scenery and lifestyle evoke markedly different ideas?

AB:
When I first moved back to town I was flooded with New England story ideas. But most of them fizzled out. I did write a haunted house story I liked that was published by Blue Spider Books called “The Peculiar Odor of Bad Dreams.” I think my tank is still full of desert stories I need to finish first before I can transition my mind fully to New England.

CL:
You are currently working on a new novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?

AB:
My current work in progress is called DAPHNE. It is about a girl whose mother was a cult movie star in the 70s and 80s, but died on set of a horror movie that no one ever saw. Ten years after her mother dies, the girl learns that the film reels still exist, and the killer might be on the reels. So she goes on a journey to find the reels and her mother’s killer.

I originally imagined it would be a horror novel, but the story itself hasn’t agreed with me. Much of the movie is about the filming of a horror movie. But the story itself is less scary. It is more of a coming of age story. It is about 90s pop music and 80s horror movies and 70s counter culture. It is about a girl trying to discover a mother she never knew. It’s about not achieving your dreams. It’s about children reaching the dreams their parents had dreamed.

It is an ever-expanding canvas. Originally it was supposed to come out this November, but it has been delayed until February. The more unwieldy it gets, the more frightened I am it will be delayed again.

It is hands down some of the best writing I have ever done. And I really want it to be good, so if it delays farther, so be it.

One thing I’ve learned through the experience of publishing SACRIFICE, it is very hard to sell books. It’s hard to break through the noise. There are so many books in the world. There are a lot of good books out there. It is a great privilege when someone chooses to spend hours out of their life reading something I wrote. There is no need to get to market in a hurry. Very few people will notice, anyway. But I will live with it out in the world forever. So I want it to be the story I want to see in the world. I can’t make people love my book. Plenty of people have had passionately negative reactions to SACRIFICE. People have found it difficult and hard to follow.

So I am preparing myself for the reception of DAPHNE. It is far less straightforward than SACRIFICE. My primary concern is that the book that hits the bookshelf best accomplishes my vision. That way no matter how many people hate it I can feel confident with what I created.

CL:
What draws you in about the crime and horror genres?

AB:
When it comes to horror I think it found me, I didn’t find it. When I started out as a writer I never expected to write horror. What is interesting to me when I look back on my life as a writer and reader, the most influential writer for me was Stephen King. Strangely, the first two grown up writers that I read were Stephen King and John Updike. I was introduced to Stephen King one summer on Monhegan Island, Maine. Growing up, my family spent the month of August on Monhegan. The summer I turned ten I arrived on the island and one of my summer friends showed me the book he was reading. He was reading THE STAND. He dragged me to the tiny library the island had and made me pick a book. He was obsessed. After I read my first King book I became obsessed too.

John Updike was quite different. My dad had a couple of his books on the shelf. And they stood out like a challenge. My dad didn’t read fiction. He was a preacher and an amateur historian. But he had these two Updike books because they were written in the town where he grew up and they caused a lot of controversy. One of the titles was COUPLES. I heard it whispered around the house that it was a dirty book. So I of course had to read it. So I snuck off with it when I was about ten or eleven. It opened my eyes to a very different kind of sexuality from the kind that eleven year old boys talk about after school. These two writers were my first true introduction to storytelling.

Horror was always lingering at the periphery. But crime came later. Certain my fascination with mid-century pulp writers played a role. But I also worked for Dan Rather Reports researching crime stories and that influenced me greatly as a writer. Some of the backstories in SACRIFICE came from my research days with Dan Rather. I also have another novel I wrote a couple years ago that I am tinkering with that comes directly from my crime research days.

CL:
As a man of both film and literature, what is your favorite book to movie adaptation? And what do you think makes a good adaptation?

AB:
One of my favorite film adaptations is FIGHT CLUB. I am a huge David Fincher fan. I think he is one of the best American directors. I have felt that way since probably SEVEN.

But I read FIGHT CLUB a long time before it became a cult classic and I thought it was an amazingly fresh way to tell a story. The way he used product placement ironically. I also thought he made some very insightful statements about male culture over the past twenty years. And I think Fincher captured that on film perfectly.

Ironically, I think novels are the worst source material for movies. They are too long and unwieldy. Also novels tend to be very interior.

I personally think short stories are the best material to develop a good movie. There is a film based on Andre Dubus’s short story KILLINGS that I think is probably one of the best adaptations ever. It is the story of a father who captures the man who killed his son and takes him into the woods and kills him. It is a profound story. And the film managed to mine every dark corner and nuance of Andre Dubus’s genius. The movie was called IN THE BEDROOM.

CL:
What can we expect from you in the future? Feel free to shamelessly promote yourself!

AB:
Of course, as I said, I’m actively finishing a new novel.

But the most immediate thing that is coming is a movie. I wrote the screenplay for a movie called AT YOUR OWN RISK. It is finishing sound design now. It is due out very soon. I am very excited about it.

I like to think of it as David Fincher’s THE GAME meets TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.

Its follows two girls who own a marketing firm who are invited to test out a live action treasure hunt in the desert. They are given GPS codes that lead to buried treasure. But as the game goes along the treasures they find are used against them in a sadist game of survival in the middle of the unforgiving desert.
Buy Sacrifice here!

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Wicked Haunted is here!

Featuring my brand new short story, Everything Smells Like Smoke Again!

Ghost stories, from local myths to full blown horror shows, have been spun around campfires since the dawn of man, passed from generation to generation for edification or simply to frighten and thrill. They lead us along dark side roads, into murky swamps and abandoned houses. Ghost stories bring us face-to-face with the farmer harboring secret graves behind his barn, the old man living next to the cemetery, or the frightened person staring back at you from the mirror. They haunt the listeners and readers and make them want to re-tell them again and again, so they would not be alone in their fear.

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Featuring fiction and poetry from Matt Bechtel, Tom Deady, GD Dearborn, Barry Lee Dejasu, Peter N. Dudar, Jeremy Flagg, Dan Foley, doungjai gam, Emma J. Gibbon, Larissa Glasser, Patricia Gomes, Curtis M. Lawson, Bracken MacLeod, Nick Manzolillo, Paul McMahon, Paul R. McNamee, James A. Moore, R.C. Mulhare, Rob Smales, Morgan Sylvia, Dan Szczesny, KH Vaughan and Trisha J. Wooldridge. Interior artwork by Ogmios, Judi Calhoun and Kali Moulton. Cover art by Mikio Murakami.

 

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The Wrong House, Free!

In celebration of October, I’m posting my horror comic, The Wrong House, in its entirety! Please enjoy, share, and have a great Halloween!

"Oft one finds, when the foe he meets, that he is not the bravest of all" - Old Norse Proverb

“Oft one finds, when the foe he meets, that he is not the bravest of all” – Old Norse Proverb

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The Wrong House

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Tom Deady Interview

Tom Deady is a fairly new author, who came out of the gate with his Bram Stoker Award winning first novel, Haven. Since then, Tom has not slowed down and has released a second novel, several short stories, and has novella dropping later this month!

Tom took some time out of his writing schedule to answer a few questions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curtis Lawson:
Tell me a little bit about Tom Deady as a writer. How do you approach horror? Who are your influences? What kind of thematic or subtextual elements are present in your work?

Tom Deady:
I don’t really have a formula for how I approach horror. I just get an idea for either a scene or a character and start writing. Then the story takes over.

Haven is essentially a coming-of-age story that happens to have a monster. The theme present throughout, applying to several characters, is redemption or second chances. Even though it’s a horror novel, I like to think there is a positive message of hope.

Eternal Darkness is also a coming-of-age story, but it’s more of a classic horror tale. If there’s an underlying theme, I guess it would be the paradox of good and evil existing within all of us.  

CL:
Your debut novel, Haven made quite a splash and earned you a Bram Stoker Award. How does it feel to meet such great success so early on in your writing career?

TD:
It’s a little unnerving. I really don’t want to be a “one hit wonder” of the horror genre. I’d like to think I have a few more good stories to tell.

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CL:
Haven is a coming of age horror story. Is there a lot of personal childhood experience thrown in there with the fiction?

TD:
Yeah, there is a lot of material taken from my childhood, as well as experiences later in my life. Part of the reason I based Haven in the seventies is because that’s when I grew up, so all the pop culture and sports references came easy. And there’s a little bit of me in a lot of the characters.

CL:
Your second novel, Eternal Darkness is a vampire story. How did you approach the subject of vampirism in your book? What makes Eternal Darkness stand out from other vampire stories?

TD:
My approach was like what Dan Simmons did with Children of the Night, to make vampirism a human affliction, not an undead being. I did a lot of research on xeroderma pigmentosum and created an extreme version of that to explain why they can’t be exposed to sunlight. I dismissed some of the overtly supernatural characteristics, such as shape-shifting, and focused on the fundamental parts of the mythos: drinking blood, no sunlight, etc. I tried to raise the level of believability as much as possible.

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CL:
Do you think good horror fiction should make the reader think about the world around them, escape the world around them, or maybe a bit of both?

TD:
I think it’s both. In one respect, any genre fiction can be viewed as an escape. Horror, in particular, allows readers to escape whatever real horrors they live with, be it financial, health, or otherwise, and immerse themselves into a more “controllable” horror situation. Things get too bad, they can simply close the book. On the other hand, and this depends on the story, readers can relate to characters and their struggles, the decisions they have to make.

CL:
You attend a ton of events, and you are always at the Wyrd horror readings that I run. I know that writers in a lot of the country don’t have the same support system we have in New England. How important do you think it is to have a supportive, local horror community? How has it shaped your writing and career?
TD:
The support I have received has been incredible, from both the HWA and the NEHW. I think it is very important to have a support system in the writing community. Everyone has been extremely helpful, always willing to read a draft or give a blurb. It’s an amazing group of people. I think that type of support, beyond a writer’s friends and family support system, is critical. I think it has really improved my writing and helped to get my name out there in wider circles.

8f7068b9d7c1aa46f7c2209918c6e335767ba168CL:
You have a story being released in the New England Horror Writers anthology, Wicked Haunted. Can you spill a few details?

TD:
Sure. As you know the theme is hauntings. I was trying to stay away from the haunted house trope because I figured they would be overrun with those submissions. Same for things like haunted paintings or haunted mirrors. So, I thought, what if the haunting wasn’t visual, but audible? And what better to be haunted than an old Victrola bought at a yard sale?

CL:
Do you have any dream projects? Something that has been marinating in your brain for years, or maybe an established property that you would love to work on?

TD:
I have a lot of dream collaborations, though I don’t know the first thing about how to collaborate on a novel. As far as projects, I’d like to do some kind of take on The Hardy Boys, maybe them as younger kids, or old men. I grew up reading those mysteries and they’ve always stuck with me.
CL:
What scares you?

TD:
Lots of things: heights, flying, earwigs. But really, something happening to my kids is what scares me most.

CL:
Any final thoughts or projects you’d like to promote?

TD:
I’m really excited for my novella, Weekend Getaway, coming out later this month. It’s much darker than my previous works, and straight human horror, nothing supernatural. I’m hoping it’s well received. I also have a story called The Pink Balloon, coming out in an Unnerving anthology named Hardened Hearts. That should be available in December. Other than that, I’ve been shopping a YA horror novel, hopefully that will find a home soon.

 

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The Devoured Kindle giveaway

My western/cosmic horror novel, The Devoured, is currently free on Kindle! This is only going on for a few days, so be sure to take advantage of it! Currently it is ranked #1 in free western horror, which is admittedly niche, but it still feels nice!

Devoured wyrd cover

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Wicked Haunted – A New England Horror Writers Anthology

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I’m excited to announce my inclusion in Wicked Haunted, an anthology from the New England Horror Writers.  My story, Everything Smells Like Smoke Again, marks my first inclusion in an NEHW publication, and I am in excellent company! The book drops in October in both print and ebook format.

You can find out more by clicking on the cover above! Table of contents below.
Bracken MacLeod Lost Boy
James A. Moore Pulped
Remy Flagg Murmur
Doungjai Gam Bepko We’re all Haunted Here
Emma Jane Shaw Gibbon Ghost Maker
Kenneth Vaughan And They Too Want to be Remembered
Peter Dudar The Thing With No Face
GD Dearborn Triumph of the Spirit
Nick Manzolillo My Work is Not yet Completed
Paul McNamee East Boston Relief Station
Trisha Wooldridge Ghosts in their eyes
Curtis M. Lawson Everything Smells like Smoke Again
Renee Mulhare Stranding Off Schroodic Point
Tom Deady Turn Up the Old Victrola
Dan Szczesny Boy on the Red Tricycle
Dan Foley They Come With the Storm
Barry Lee Dejasu Tripping the Ghost
Rob Smales Road to Gallway
Paul McMahon The Pick Apart
Morgan Sylvia The Thin Place
Matt Bechtel The Walking Man
Larissa Glasser The Mouse
Patricia Gomes Scrying Through Torn Screens

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Kevin Strange Interview: Art, Work Ethic, and The Culture War

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!

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Curtis Lawson:

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?

 

Kevin Strange:

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.

CL:
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.

KS:

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. 
CL:

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?

KS:

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.

CL:

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.

KS:

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!  
CL:
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?

KS:

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.

 CL:
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?

KS:

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.

CL:
A while back you had a falling out with the bizarro community. Was that mainly because of your politics?

KS:

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. 

CL:
Any pragmatic or artistic advice for creative folks who lean right of center but might be afraid to openly admit it?

KS:

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.

CL:
Okay, fuck cliques and politics for now. Tell me about your new book, Beetle Brain.

KS:

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!

CL:
Some of your stuff is way out there. What inspires you write such weird, off the wall material?

KS:

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.

CL:
What books and films have had the most influence on you as a storyteller?

KS:

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.

 CL:
If budget, copyrights, etc… were not an issue, what would your dream project be? Any medium.

KS:

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.

CL:
What can we expect down the road from Strangeville?

 KS:
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.

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Horror Novel Reviews interview

Horror Novel Reviews conducted a new interview with me last week. The questions were excellent and it was a great time discussing horror, religion, and writing! Read it here!

black pantheons final

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Love letter to a ’58 Fury

In the past I have credited Wes Craven for sparking my love of horror, and H. P. Lovecraft for nurturing that flame.  Of course, there were countless other story tellers, and countless stories across hundreds of paperbacks, comics, and VHS tapes that helped shape what kind of fan, author, and even what kind of person I am today.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is always my go to when asked about the most influential film in my life, but recently I’ve begun to think that another horror villain, even more iconic than Freddy Krueger with his bladed glove, filthy hat, and muted Christmas color sweater, may have had a significantly deeper impact on my development. I’m not talking about Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, or Charles Lee Ray. The character in question is not some masked stalker, but rather a drop dead gorgeous, red and white, 1958 Plymouth Fury.

Image result for christine plymouth

Just tonight, I finished reading Christine (listening to the audiobook rather) for the first time, and while I found myself enthralled by the book, and the extra dimensions it added, there was a feeling of melancholy over the one big difference between the novel and the screen adaptation. The 1983 film (which bore John Carpenter’s name as the draw, in lieu of Stephen King) had been a staple of my childhood VHS rotation, competing heavily with Dream Warriors, Monster Squad, and The Lost Boys. Every weekend I would grab a new horror movie from June’s Video Hut – Maniac cop, 976-Evil, The Gate – but still, every weekend, Christine would make it into the VCR at some point.

In retrospect, I think the reason I kept going back the story of Arnie Cunningham and his possessed ride, was that, to me, it wasn’t primarily a horror movie. Sure, it had all the marks of one. A respectable body count, made up of the typical slasher movie victims. An unstoppable killing machine. Discordant music and supernatural phenomenon. But that was all periphery, because to me Christine was a love story.

Arnie Cunningham was probably the first character in fiction that I ever truly related to. I’m not sure how old I was the first time I saw the film, but I was old enough to be the least popular kid in my grade, and too young to start reinventing myself as the teenage occultist/death rocker I would become a few years later. I was always a smart kid, but I was a loser. I always put up with people’s shit, and I felt very, very alone in the world. Just like Arnie.

I still remember the surge of satisfaction, watching Arnie go from nerdy victim, to bad ass and dangerous, behind the wheel of the most beautiful vehicle I had laid on eyes on, before or since. His clothes and his hair changed. He stopped being the victim, and the object of pity. He even got the girl, over his cool, jock buddy. Christine had been like a catalyst for his chrysalis, not that I would have used those words back then, but I recognized it as such, and I yearned for the same thing.

Then came the part when Buddy Reperton and his gang, kindred spirits to the grade school townies who put me through hell, trashed Christine. In their small-souled anger they smashed, bludgeoned, and punctured this work of art that meant the world to the guy on the screen, who was so much like myself. They destroyed her, because he loved her, and because they were too stupid and petty to do anything but destroy. And then… then they literally took a shit on her.

I seethed with anger at that. The first time I watched the movie was the most intense of course, but with each subsequent viewing it still pissed me off. In their faces I could see all the shitty, mean-spirited kids from my school, and I knew in my heart that if I ever had something of such beauty in my life, they would try to take it, just as they did my dignity each and every day

As such, it should come as no surprise that wild excitement gripped my heart when Arnie’s car took to the road and hunted down the “shitters”. I know that sounds fucked up, especially coming from a kid of maybe ten years old, but remember, this is before Nerd-Chic was a thing. There were no safe spaces, and Columbine had yet to teach administrations that bullying should be taken at least a little bit more seriously. All the “ignore them” and “toughen up” speeches in the world didn’t make things better, but watching that ghostly ‘58 run those bastards down kind of did. Those dirt bags, so far as I was concerned, were getting just what they deserved, and I watched Christine dole out her cruel justice over and over and over. I found it heroic, rather than scary, to watch her speeding down the road, engulfed in flame, her high beams set forward in singular purpose.

And she did it all for him.

She did it all for him. That idea was fucking beautiful to me, and it kind of still is. Before I ever desired a woman, or crushed on a girl, or even tried to sneak a dirty magazine, I fell in love with Christine. In my mind I was Arnie, and she was doing it all for me. Because she loved me too, and god damn, I needed that. Not the way your parents love you just for existing, but the way a lover sees that special magic in your soul and says, “You are the most incredible person in this universe, and I would murder the world to see you smile”.

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Christine taught me what love is, beyond my mother and father. That moment when Arnie tells her to show him what she can do, and she trusts in him enough to reform before his eyes. How her belief in him transforms him from a door mat to a man, and his belief in her makes her immortal. The way she is willing to rip herself apart to cut down anyone who’d harm him. And yes, even her mad, wild jealousy, that I would experience later in life before time and experience tempered such things.

Sometime after the murders start, Arnie and Dennis are talking about love. Dennis thinks Arnie is talking about Leigh, but of course he means Christine. His words hold a wisdom though, and as much as I needed to believe them as a child, experience has taught me that they are indeed true.

“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats. But I’ll tell you something else. You feed it right, and it can be a beautiful thing, and that’s what we have.

You know, when someone believes in you, man, you can do anything, any fucking thing in the entire universe. And when you believe right back in that someone, then watch out world, because nobody can stop you then, nobody! Ever!”

And then of course, there is the end, when Arnie and Christine face off against Leigh and Dennis in a final confrontation. Arnie dies, impaled on dagger of pre-safety glass windshield. A voice from the radio sings “I’ll forever love you” as Arnie fades into oblivion, in the metaphorical arms of his lover. Then Christine loses her mind in sorrow and anger, and no matter how many times I had seen the film, no matter how many times I had watched her get crushed, I rooted for her to win.

Despite watching that tape over and over until some voracious, dying VCR chewed it up, I somehow never read the book, until now, nearly thirty years later, and I’m glad I waited. In King’s novel, things are different. It is an excellent read, but the feeling is just not the same. LaBey, Christine’s former owner, is the driving force behind the car, and behind Arnie’s transformation. If there is any love story, it’s a trailer trash romance between the unsympathetic Roland LaBey and his sexy Plymouth fury, who manipulate and use Arnie for their own means. In the book, Arnie dies like he lived, a loser manipulated and bullied by those around him. It’s a scarier tale, and a hell of a lot darker, but for once, I like the happier ending, if you can call it that.

Christine was, and still is my Cinderella, my Beauty and The Beast, my Tristan Und Isolde. It was my first glimpse at passion and to this day, I can’t think of anything more romantic than Johnny Ace singing “Pledging My Love” as Christine’s headlights illuminate Arnie’s dead body. It’s no wonder I married a woman of the same name.

I started this whole rant talking about my biggest influences being Craven and Lovecraft, which is true. My work, and my world view, borrow heavily from Lovecraft’s cosmic nihilism. And sure the Springwood Slasher may have haunted the dreams of my youth, and sparked my love of horror.  But Christine… Well, you never forget your first love.

Image result for arnie death christine

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Free on Kindle, 06/08/17

Free today on Kindle, 6/8/17
It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World

bad-world-cover-kindle

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