Jason Michel Interviews Jodi MacArthur
Tell me, why write Horror? What gave you push to start out on your own wicked way?
So many of us walk into the black widow’s web, because we pretend it isn’t there. We are happy snappy and whistle while the widow spins us in her silk and sinks her fangs deep. Later, we wonder what we did to deserve the sticky situation we are in. It’s simple. We chose to believe the spider wasn’t there.
I write horror because horror exists. I tired pretending it doesn’t. Darkness is the black widow inside all of us. It will trap and kill those we love most, including ourselves, if we don’t acknowledge this and keep it in check.
A spider obsession?
I agree with you about recognising our own demons. It is the only way to begin ridding ourselves of them, or at the very least accepting them with open arms.
Who has influenced your writing? Not just literary influences but the world view that flows into your stories?
I read Stephen King, Christopher Pike, and Tara K Harper when I was a teenager. Their writings resonated with me because their views on humanity rang true with the monstrosities I experienced growing up.
When I was little I would ask my grandmother to read me Little Red Riding Hood over and over and over. She thought I was enjoying a fairytale, when in fact it was my lifeline. The story interpreted my own existence. It was my survival guide, a documentary, my bible. This is what I learned before the age of five:
One must always watch for signs of the wolf, because wolves don’t always look like wolves. Most of the time they look good, smell good, talk slick. They will trick everybody into thinking they are the good guy. The second you are vulnerable they will eat you. No one will save you. It falls upon each person to watch their own backs and those whom they love.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has had the largest impact on me in my adult years. The book is amazing and an absolute testament of human nature. Robert Louis Stevenson short stories have had a huge influence on me as well.
Have you ever heard of one of the original versions of Little Red Riding where the wolf chops up Granny & puts her in the stew then, unknown to Red, feeds her her own Granny at which point the Granny’s cat pops & says “You little slut, eating your own flesh & blood!” then the wolf lobs Red’s head off?
The End. No woodsman. It was one of the old French versions, I think.
Would you say that you write Cautionary Tales?
Why do these old stories still entrance us?
Yes. I’m glad my grandmother didn’t read me that one.
Would you say that you write Cautionary Tales?
No. Cautionary Tales imply that society knows best and dictates how we should behave. I think it’s healthy for a person to question what society teaches. Sometimes shadows are wolves, sometimes they are just shadows.
We all make mistakes. We all have the same primal needs. We all have the same desires. I don’t know any more than the next person. I look at my writing as me sharing with you on an equal level the world as I see it or imagine it can be. If you find something you can use, that is just a bonus.
Why do these old stories still entrance us?
This is a great question and a hard one for me to answer. I was watching a short documentary on a music band that I’ve just discovered. The lead singer talked about the connection between film, music, visuals, audience and the band…how these all have to come together for the band to be successful. I believe similar elements are involved in a good story. What creates this connection from writer to reader? I’m a young writer and trying to figure this out myself. All I know is when all the right elements come together magic happens. It kindles fire and creates emotion.
These stories from old have been around because their authors were able to create a connection we can feel and ponder on today despite their being written centuries ago for a different audience and a different society.
Tell me what is it about pirates?
Since Johnny Depp & his Jack Sparrow, they’ve been in the public eye now for a while.
It is just the way they say GAAAARRRRR!!!?
Aye, thar be no landlubber here!
The way we think of pirates is pure fantasy. Good ol’ bad boys using treasure maps to find where X marks the spot. Chests of gold. Sword fights, gunfights – danger! Adventure. Wenches. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! Walk the plank and swim with the sharks. Sign me up, ye filthy mutts! Remember One-Eyed Willie from Goonies? From what I’ve read, real life historical piracy isn’t nearly so romantic, but it’s fun to pretend.
Talking of music, your story “Scars” was inspired by a song.
Seems to me that music is something that might be important to you, as it is for me.
Do you listen to tunes while you write?
If so, who?
I’ve noticed your own passion for music, and I appreciate how you’ve entwined it into the heart of PMM. I read a story from your book ‘Wrong Minds and other fiction’ called Metal Death Love based on a song. Very cool rhythm and an interesting take on death brought on by love.
Music is very important for my creative process, so I always listen to it when I write. It is inspiration for scenes, characters, dialogue, tone setting, mixing characters and their belief systems, but most importantly, music is a way of getting rid of ME as I write. There is always that split second of insecurity when my fingers kiss the keyboard, self doubt of whether there is really anything to what I’m doing. What if I’ve lost that connection to whatever it is that ties our imaginations? What if I just plain suck? Then, there is all the life issues that clog up my brain, physical pain, insomnia, scorpions and spiders the size of horses invading my house -blah blah blah… issues we all deal with. Music drowns out all these thoughts and sets my mind free. Only when my mind is free of ME can my worlds and character emerge to tell their stories.
I listen from everything from opera to heavy metal. I’m not sure I can give favorites list of bands because what I listen to is constantly changing. Devil’s Eye is very intense and I chose some intense selections of music to go with it: Godsmack, Drowning Pool, Mark Collie, Slip knot, Rob Zombie, Wasteland, Punisher soundtrack. Dash of hip hop with Black Eyed peas, Lady Gaga. A touch of humor with Magnetic Fields infused with the simple sexy beat of Metric. Tasty recipe, huh?
And then there is the pirate series, The Wicked Woman’s Booty, I’m working on for PMM here. I had a really hard time finding ‘pirate’ music. And I’m not talking yo ho ho ho music, just something that would fit the mood of what I want. I recently found a hard rock band in my hometown of Seattle named Fused. Their music ROCKS and is perfect for The Wicked Woman’s Booty. Tell us a little about your up & coming debut novel.
I have shied away from talking about Devil’s Eye, because I have a hard time defining it. Which is weird, because I love taking a piece of work and wrapping it up in a few sentences. I can’t do that with DE. It’s so odd and intense. It’s all the things in a book I’ve wished were in a book. I’m hoping as I go through the edits, it will become more defined and easy to explain. I will give you these magic beans. The stalk they grow and the giant that crawls down—I can’t be held responsible for.
Devil’s Eye is about: Violets, Frankenstein, Disco jockeys, mafia, Harley babes, bowie knives, purple haired ladies, schizophrenic families, scars, demons, detectives, gold chains, sacrifice, fear, magic, sex, lies, love and what it means to be human.
We don’t always have a choice about being dragged into the darkness of humanity. Shail and Violet discover there is no other way out, but through The Devil’s Eye.
So, what does the future hold for Jodi MacArthur?
I read the lines on my palm and either I will be extremely rich or extremely dead. I can’t remember what the squiggly line means, SO until one of these happens, I’ll keep writing what my shadow whispers. The plan is to write novels with short stories in between – for the rest of my life. It’s what I was made to do. The next novel, Dark softly, is a gothic/punk/horror. I’m taking a urban legend and twisting, twisting until it rings out stardust and ribbons. The idea stems from a short story, Lovely Creature, I wrote for Erin Cole’s 13 Days Of Horror last October. For those of you who read the short, just because Briar’s head rolled off doesn’t mean it can’t be sewed back on.
Thank you so much for the interview, Jason. Long live PMM!
Jodi’s Dark & Twisted stories & other news can be found at : http://www.jodimacarthur.blogspot.com/
DT- I am the second oldest of 13 children born to an unwed mother in 1946. (Taboo at that time) At the age of 10, ‘the state people’ took my mother away, she loved men and booze. The men beat her up and the booze drove her crazy. She would spend many years in prison and the loony bin. All my siblings and I were placed with relatives and foster homes. I ran away with my older brother, stole a car and thus began my decent into Hell…reform schools, jail, prison and the nut house. My mother’s bad genes took over from there. I’d spend the next 40 years of my life addicted to heroin, methadone, fear and violence. Now at the age of 63 I’ve mellowed out…been straight since 1997.
JM- Who were your early literary influences and how have they changed?
DT- That’s an easy one—Jerzy Kosinski –Steps-. Why? Because he wrote short, crisp, tight sentences unadorned with ‘big words’ (I dislike reaching for a dictionary wasting valuable reading time) or purple prose. I want the raw meat of a sentence, no garnishments.
Today many contemporary authors share my bookshelf:
William Burroughs –Junky-
Dan Fante –Short Dog
Jerome Washington –Iron House-
And, most recently, Tony O’Neill of -Down and Out on Murder Mile- fame.
What made me want to pick up the pen? (I prefer a #2 pencil…can’t live without an eraser) Back in ’68 I did 3 months in jail for a lousy joint I forgot about in my t-shirt pocket after being frisked after a failed shoplifting attempt.
During that bit, I read Ayn Rands’ –Atlas Shrugged-. (Never understood any of it since it had a lot of ‘big words’ and political, capitalistic crap.) I plagiarized some of her writing and passed it off as my own to inmate friends who thought I was a genius. I scooped up all the glory, that is until one of our learned ones exposed me. I never forgot that feeling of fame and glory. It was then I decided to write my own stuff.
JM- Your stories are honestly brutal, Dan. Where does the inspiration come from?
DT- I write from experience. We, as writers, are taught to write about what we know. Not only have I talked the talk…I’ve also walked the walk. I’ve been there. I share my stories the way a traveler shares his sights, sounds and adventures from abroad. The normal traveler says, “Oh, my…look at the beauty and grandiose of the Grand Canyon.” I say, “Look at the stench and funk of rotted filth and excrement here in the puke snot of Lucifer’s nose drippings. Welcome to my world.”
Although 99.9% of my writing is non-fiction, I need that .1% of fiction to cover my ass incase the law reads my stuff. I know they do because I was arrested two years ago and during booking they acknowledged reading them online. I do use a writer’s prerogative to blend fact and fiction. For instance, my most recent story –Fire in the Hole- depicts the demise of a pedophile in prison. Fact is, I never saw it. This would make me an accomplice to a murder. And we know there is no statute of limitation for murder. During my incarceration I’ve actually heard the cries of three guys who were torched but never saw them. (Their cells were further down the galley from me) I researched, online, how the human body burns and weaved it into the story.
JM- You mentioned having been inside the U.S. penal system, an experience most people reading this (myself included) could only imagine through books & film, The Animal Factory, The Room etc etc.
I have a couple of friends who have been inside the British system & one thing that one of them said to me always made sense – That prisons just breed better criminals.
How does a wo/man retain his/her sense of being human while being incarcerated?
DT- Unfortunately, Jason, any human being who has experienced time behind bars living with people who could slit your throat at any moment for any reason (sometimes for no reason) puts you on the defensive. When your time is up and you leave the system the fear stays with you. Think about this for a moment, the Vietnam vet comes home with post traumatic stress disorder. He has seen ‘things’ that he will never recover from. I have seen and done ‘things’ that I will never recover from. So, to answer your question, once you’re thrown into the jungle you survive by becoming one of them. Humanity no longer exists. Sometimes you’re the victim, sometimes the predator. The prison system has taught me one valuable lesson and Sartre said it best, “Hell is other people.” Based on that philosophy, (and by no choice of my own) I’ve isolated myself from normal, human interaction. I simply do not know how to fit into ‘normal’ society. I am an outsider not by choice. I’ve strayed too far.
JM- In Britain & here in France prisons are incredibly overcrowded. I assume it’s the same in the U.S. Yet the crime rate has not really increased in 150 years, no matter how the media tries to spin it to keep us scared.
DT- I have to disagree with you on this one. Since crack hit the streets in the ‘80s, the crime rate has soared exponentially. Hell, right here in my state, Connecticut, our prisons are so full that inmates are shipped to other states. One state, I think Texas, has set up tents to house inmates.
JM- What in your opinion has gone wrong with the way our society approaches the question of “drug crime” & crime in general?
DT-Obviously crime in general will always exist. There’s a little larceny in all of us. Years ago, here in the states the ‘underworld’ controlled gambling and booze. Today the government controls it. Do the same with drugs and there won’t be a black-market. A few states now control and sell weed and it seems to be working well.
JM- Your work actually reminds me of Hubert Selby Jr. in that your writing seems to have the element of a cautionary tale about it.
DT- Yes, Last Exit to Brooklyn, my favorite. Superlative writing, especially the adventures of Tralala.
JM- How much would you say is a case of “I’ve been there & this is how it is – if you come down this route be prepared for this” ?
Or are they just a statement of fact?
DT- A fact indeed. I don’t think I’d be able to survive in today’s prisons. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s you didn’t have all the gangs, Back then you fought a guy here…another there, but today if someone put a contract out on you, well, you’re dead…end of story.
JM- How much has the internet changed the way you write & see writing?
DT- Most of my life I wrote unstructured, random crap and the internet taught me how to structure my short stories. In fact, thanks to you Jason Michel for turning me on to a British Pulp Magazine who offered to publish me. I’ve never written anything over 3000 words, now I have to learn how to structure a novella.
JM- Your story “Chasing the Bag”, up at Laura Hird’s Showcase finishes with the line – “Life really is grand”. Does that sum it all up for you now?
DT- Well, look at it this way, I am alive and drug free. And for that I am thankful.
JM- What does the future hold for you & your writing?
DT- I am 63 years old, have no education (just a GED) had my first story published in 2007 and I doubt The New Yorker or mainstream America will be signing me up. Mainstream wants writers who will help buy their groceries and put their kids through college. I’ve lived an unhealthy life and could drop dead tomorrow…not a very good investment. However, I am thrilled to publish online (I love the glory and fame) and will continue until the grim reaper finds me.
JM- Thank you very much for this opportunity to talk with you & all the best for the future & your writing, Dan.
DT- Thank you for the interview Jason.
Dan’s writing can be found here:
Lycanthropy. Why do a Horror Anthology about lycanthropy? Or should I say therianthropy?
What was the intial inspiration?
MC : Well, the anthology goes a little deeper than that. It does involve lycanthropy and therianthropy, but in a way that I had hoped would be a fresh perspective. The real underlying theme of Howl is rage and suppressed anger, and what person does not become a beast when those are present? I even coaxed some of the authors into the proper mood by applying duress to them at various points in their writing. If you don’t believe me ask some of them. I recall a few of them actually getting livid with me. All of this was intentional. I saw myself as the director of a major project, and I felt it was my duty as the director to become very involved in the process. If you want to make a good omlet you have to be willing to break the eggs.
But back to your question. What I wanted were stories with very visual connotations that the reader could easily identify with. The more the author’s thoughts turned to the animal, the more they became totemic and symbolic, and thus an easier conduit for the their emotions. Of course I wanted horror, very intense and savage horror. I left it up to each author how to translate that. Ideas ranged from conventional urban horror to the psycho-sexual to the darkly surreal. There is something for everyone in this anthology.
JM : Interesting how you mentioned “rage” in connection with the “animal side” of our nature. I had a dream once where I was a wolf (not a werewolf, that’s only for the full moon). Shit you not. I vaguely remember running around some forest with all this other dream-like stuff coming up & what I felt was not the feeling of rage, but of intense lust for something, food, a shag, whatever. Oh & the ever present fear of humanity lurking around.
Why do we seem to feel that the so-called “animal side” of ourselves is always about the “negative” aspects of being a human as opposed to an acceptance that we are nothing more than animals, no better or worse than a wolf?
I tend think it still comes down the influence of such cultural baggage as Christianity, even though we pretend to ourselves that we are more enlightened these days.
MC : Rage comes when there is no comfort zone to crawl back into. Had you run around that dream long enough and found no rabbits to snack on, your teeth would have grown two sizes. I do not necessarily equate rage with the animal side of nature, but I do equate the animal side to all emotions that flow freely, the ones you can’t hold in. Just like a wolf in a dream, who would eventually need a use for those very large teeth.
JM : So, we’ve had overdoses of cinematic & literary elegant aristocratic vampires & the mindless zombie horde whether shuffling or leaping, do you think we beginning to see a new wave of werewolf horror?
What’s the appeal?
MC : Vampires have blown up and blown out. People have run out of ways to explain them, even at the risk of making their skin glowy and glittery. Nonsense. And I don’t mean to be dismissive, but this latest craze in which authors have tried to make the zombie topic into a nice categorical genre, as if anyone were interested in them beyond their capacity to be a movie prop that drool on themselves and quietly search for the next brain to eat…also nonsense. When was the last time you saw a zombie movie that you didn’t forget about the week later?
I don’t know if werewolves are the up and coming thing, but I will say this. I will accept a story more readily that has some duality to it, where the main character struggles with a secret curse and is actually a bit vulnerable. I also think that the tradition of making vampires out of super sexy Fabio-types is a little silly (although the original intention was that it offended heaven to make them out of such pretty stock). I’ll take a werewolf story any day. There is something about blood pumping in a living creature that makes the myth just that more believable.
What is your take on all of this? Anything I’m saying here that you agree with?
JM : Well …
Vampires have been done to death, I agree, thanks to Anne Rice, Buffy & all that malarky.
Although I still enjoy them, especially the old Hammer Horror flicks with Sir Christopher Lee (that’s Sir, ladies & germs. Respect where respect is due) & Peter Cushing. There are still some class vampire films that look at things from a different angle. The recent Swedish film “Let The Right One In” is a case to point. A brilliant film, equally moving & vile.
Zombie flicks, I think, were always (of course) less about the anguish & pain of being a monster and more a subversive observation on society (consumerism, the military etc.) & the apocalyptic feel of the Cold War & I do like the old Romero flicks & 28 Days Later.
But werewolves are the tragic heroes of the Gothic Horror world. It is that element of tragedy that appeals (to me, at least). In a way they are the perfect Romantic anti-hero. We can more readily identify with the beast that is inside us all than a svelte aristocratic fop with a penchant for blood stained frilly shirts & nobody really wishes to be seen as a shuffling lifeless horde wandering around shopping malls …(?)
We recently saw the release of the remake of The Wolfman, which are your favourite hairy howling popcorn fodder?
MC : I have to say that just when we think it’s all been done, a book or movie can come along and surprise us all. I was also a huge fan of “Let the Right One In.” The main thing that attracted me was that all of the characters were vulnerable, and that is when an audience can most identify with them. Too often authors make their heros invincible in every way, and then wonder why people are yawning at them in the theaters. Favorite zombie movie (if there can be such a thing) was “Resident Evil“. I was drawn into the plot of a world run by a giant super corporation with evil intentions (especially when you consider that millions of Americans run the risk of losing their homes each day with a single trip to the hospital because the government would rather get rich off of their misfortune than to extend the same benefits that they all share). Sorry if that pisses off any conservatives, but hey….call it like you see it.
Oh yes, the topic was rage wasn’t it? I almost got off track there. But as you can see, it’s easy to stay on that track if you’re an American. There is so much to be angry about right now. There are wolves among us everyday, and most of them wear expensive business suits and work on Wall Street. Hey, you mentioned the remake of “The Wolfman“. I gave it five stars, not just because the transformations were seamless and wonderful, but because there was an element of revenge which played out very well, and because it isn’t every day you get to see someone get a claw through the back of the head until talons are waving at you through his mouth. Deliciously wicked fun in my opinion. It has to be my favorite hairy howler movie to date. If you want to see lifeless hordes roaming the mall any day of the week, just go to any city in Texas. But of course most of them will be nibbling on hot dogs and Tex-Mex, and will likely be too obese to chase you.
JM : I still love the old Hammer film The Curse Of The Werewolf starring god’s own drunkard, Oliver Reed & An American Werewolf In London, of course. Comedy, horror & tragedy, all in one bundle with the best transformation scene in cinema.
And Jenny Agutter. Woof! Woof!
I’d like to ask you about your own writing.
Are things that are hairy on the inside an obsession, or do you like roam in other spheres of the darkest imagination?
MC : Well, I haven’t strayed much from horror, because that is what I think I have a firm foundation in. Life is horrifying to me most of the time, so there is much to draw from. I believe that people should live what they write, and write what they live. It’s all very personal to me, and also very real. I take things a step further than most writers probably. When a story I am writing is particularly scary, I will stay up till four A.M. pacing and looking around the house every time I hear a noise, and the lights stay on. I will sometimes utter dialogue from my stories aloud to hear what it sounds like, and even do facial expressions that I think the characters would be making at particular points. the more immersed I become in the story, the more edgy and sleepless I get. That is when the best stuff comes. This all probably sounds insane.
I don’t actually write much on lycanthropy, or at least not so far. The scope of my writing involves anything and everything that pokes around the subconsious. One of my favorite curios has always been hit men, so they often make apearances in my stories. I see them as people who have to be more attuned to living in the shadows than any other person, and as a result they often find themselves up against supernatural evils that hide in the same undercurrent as they do. My story in Howl, Their Dark Master, is such a tale.
But enough about me. I want to talk about your writing, which I find to be exceptional and very exciting.
(For those of you who don’t know it, Jason Michel has two stories published in Howl. One of them is entitled Reynardina. I consider it a crowned jewel in this anthology, and I have also selected that story to appear in Lame Goat Press’ upcoming “Best of” anthology. The story is rich in detail and allure, and I’m sure that you, the reader will find yourself trapped in it quite handily. )
Jason, what can you tell us about your own writing style, inspirations, and thought processes?
I think that everyone out there will very soon like to know.
JM : *blushes & shyly changes the subject*
Actually, I’ve recently done an interview at Frank Duffy & Steve Jensen‘s home from home, The Journal. People can read it here *insert link*.
I wanna know about you, Mr Crittenden! Tell me all!
We’re all influenced in our writing by someone or other, whose shoulders are you standing on, Mark?
Are they the classics, Lovecraft & Machen et al, or more modern Horror?
MC : Lovecraft is definitely an infinite source of reverence for all writers. I was also a huge fan of Robert E. Howard before I ever knew who he was. As a child in the second grade I was asked to do a book report. I did mine on an issue of “Savage Sword of Conan“, a series adapted from Howard’s work from Marvel Comics which contained graphic nudity and violence. When my teacher began thumbing through it, she pulled me aside and told me that she wasn’t sure this was appropriate material for a class discussion. I remember telling her that she just didn’t understand the subject matter. I told her that it was all about a warrior that has to survive a landscape full of sorcerers and titanic legendary monsters, and of kings and princesses trapped in glass, and that the graphic nature in which is was portrayed was necessary to maintain the integrity of the stories. It was just as relevant as anything in mythology and very important literature, I explained. In the end I lost the debate, and I had to pick something with no sword battles or boobies showing. It was rather depressing.
I like to read stories that offer complete and total immersion to the reader, for times when escape is necessary. I turned to authors like Ray Bradbury, P.D. James, F. Paul Wilson, Whitley Strieber, Anne Rice, and William S. Burroughs, to name a few. I was also a very huge fan of Shakespeare from an early age. Ive always been attracted to stories with a strong sense of tragedy. To familiarize myself with up and coming horror authors I have recently made it a point to start collecting the works of Ellen Datlow whose anthologies are considered the standard of the industry.
JM : Yeah, I love all that old & classic stuff too. Lovecraft, H G Wells etc. My fave is Clive Barker though. He seemed to take horror to the next level & a novel like Weaveworld just, as you said, immerses you in its world.
Creativity is something that truly fascinates me.
Where do you think creativity comes from?
What has drawn to writing about the dark side?
MC : Wow, you just opened the big can of worms. The question about creativity is easy. It comes from the desperate mind, the imprisoned mind. When you feel trapped in your daily life you have two choices: you can succumb or do what your creative side tells you. The creative side fights. Always. What draws me to the dark side? Memories. I’ve seen things just about as dark and terrible as you could imagine. When I was a small child I used to have night terrors in which I believed that scorpions were crawling on everything. I saw ghosts jump off a cliff called Suicide Hill in Japan. When I was about twelve I was walking through the woods by my house and I got to a clearing. I looked up and there was this crooked tree with one long dead branch hanging sideways. Perched on it was a giant white owl, whose features looked human. I was so terrified that I couldn’t move. I remember watching it’s head sway side to side, and the more it did this the more I felt paralyzed. It flew right over me and I remember the wingspan blocked out the sun. When it spread its wings and flew toward me I remember feeling certain that I was going to die. It passed over me and I ran home as fast as I could. A friend would later explain to me in High School that I had seen a La Chusa, the spirit of a dead witch, considered by most to be very unlucky. I think I write horror because I am apt. I am familiar with it. I know it and it knows me. Some of that stuff just doesn’t leave you. It sticks.
JM : So, you feel that there is more to this world than just sticks & stones, eh?
Which direction do you feel the genre of Horror is taking?
Does anything really scare us anymore?
MC : I can’t tell you if there is a direction that horror is taking. It’s always been the same for me. It’s in the rural areas, and the still water. It’s in the smiles of malicious looking strangers. Its in abandoned railway depots and old paintings. I know that we can always be scared because no matter how technologically advanced we become we still live in the dark ages. Look in the pages of any newspaper and tell me I’m wrong.
JM : You ain’t wrong, brother!
Okay, last question …
Now that Howl has been sent out into an unsuspecting world, what can you tell us about any future projects?
What, if anything, did you learn from being the Editor on this?
Thanks a lot, Mark!
MC : Well, Jason, I stay pretty much open. I don’t really ever choose projects. They choose me. I never know what I’ll be doing from one day to the next. I was glad to have been given the editorship of Howl. I was given the freedom to pick the theme, set the mood, and select every single author for that anthology. There is some award winning talent in there, including someone who has mentored under Ray Bradbury. If you want to find out who, you have to buy the book. It’s full of surprises. The most interesting thing I learned in the process was that each author has a unique style of approaching their ideas. I just tried to pick the stories with the most flavor, the ones readers could find themselves easily lost in. I know that everyone will enjoy it. Howl is now available on Createspace and Amazon in a few days. (post link if you can) Thank you Jason, and Pulp Metal Magazine for the interview. I encourage everyone who hasn’t ordered one to go purchase a copy of Howl today. You will be glad you did.
–Mark A. Crittenden
HOWL can be bought kicking & screaming HERE!
|PDB) Can you pitch me ‘Keith Rawson’ in 25 words or less?|
Keith) Personally: Obsessive and hard working
As a writer: Degenerate, violent, and slightly humorous
|PDB) Can you choose three of your stories as an example of the weird and frightening world of Keith Rawson?|
Keith)Shit, that’s kind of a tough one, but I’ll give it a try:
1) Performance Anxiety, Bad Things issue #1
Borderlines between so-called “transgressive ” fiction and crime fiction. Filled with gallows humor with a slightly viscous undercurrent. I wrote it in about two hours and knew that it was the story that would define my writing style for the next few years.
2) What I lost Along with my keys, A Twist of Noir ( http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/2009/08/twist-of-noir-130-keith-rawson.html)
It’s another ‘not quite crime fiction, but still is kind of is’ type of story. I love writing about drunks and damaged people who exist in mainstream society but are haunting the fringes and could easily find themselves living in some flop on skidrow drinking sterno and pimping themselves in order to buy their next meal
3) Pornstar Moses, Plots with Guns #7
This is my first follow up story to Performance Anxiety and it’s a straight up hardcore crime story. I love writing straight crime fiction, and I think this story best represents where I’m going with my overall career as a writer. It’s scummy, violent, and a little funny. All of the characters from Performance Anxiety have been living in my skull since I first wrote the story. The other two follow ups have grown to the point that I’m looping all four points into a nov
PDB) You introduced me to the term ‘transgressive’ fiction. What the hell is that?
Keith) Transgressive fiction for me is writing that straddles genre and is all about extremes and darker than dark humor. Writers who I would probably hold up as the best examples of transgressive fiction are novelists like Chuck Palahniuk, Dennis Cooper, Craig Clevenger, Will Christopher Baer, and Bret Easton Ellis. I’d even go so far as to say “genre” writers such as Duane Swierczyski, Victor Gischler, and Jeff Vandermeer could be fit into this category as well. I will say this, I am trying to distance myself from the whole label, because I’ve started to take the attitude that writers who use it to so because they don’t want to be label as a “genre” writer. When it comes right down to it, I’m a crime writer, pure and simple
PDB) You’ve interviewed a lot of famous writers for BSC reviews. Who was the funniest?
Keith) In print, without a doubt, Victor Gischler. Victor is just plain funny, and I plan on doing a far more in depth interview with him in the near future, I just have to schedule a time with him when it’s good for him and me (Time has become a pretty scarce commodity for me, so I’m having to plan out everything I do weeks in advance.)
On video, Reed Farrel Coleman was flat out funny and a fun interview to conduct. It’s also my favorite interview to date as well. I pretty much got to spend 3 and half hours with Reed before his appearance with Michael Connelly. I also learned a ton about writing and the business of it during those three hours, so it was a real learning experience for me.
Joseph Wambaugh was also a great experience for me. The man is funny and charming and yet another huge source of writing knowledge.
I have a ton of interviews coming up this year that I’m really excited about. I’ll be meeting with Craig McDonald at the end of February and I’m trying to set one up with Walter Mosley in March. Plus, it’s looking like I’ll be heading to Noircon in Philly in November, so I’m going to try to corner and trap guys like Scott Phillips,Duane Swierczyski, Al Guthrie, and Daniel Woodrell while I’m their.
PDB) You sometimes write under a psuedonym. Why?
Keith) I mostly write poetry under another name. And the reason why? Deniability, my man, deniability.
PDB) You’re one of editors of Crime Factory magazine. How easy a job is that?
Keith) It hasn’t been too hard yet. It’s a lot of e-mailing–either with contributors or Cam and Liam–and the web design thing was a bit of a bitch because I was new to it, but other than that, it’s been more fun than anything else.
|PDB)You’re bloody footprints are all over the internet crimezines, what were the fisrt places you had your stories published?|
Keith) My first published story was called ‘an appointment with Larry’ at the now defunct webzine DZ Allen’s Muzzle flash fiction (it’s now up at Powder Burn Flash)
after that was my stories ‘Shutting up Aunt Sarah’ and ‘Say Cheese’ made their way on to Powder Burn Flash and then I started to pop up everywhere. The last two years have been an extremely prolific period for me, and at this point it doesn’t look like it’s letting up anytime soon
PDB) Which writers did you admire when you were younger that don’t inspire you now and vice versa?
Keith) There’s a dozen or so writers who I read when I was younger that I can’t bring myself to read now. Bukowski’s a big one. William S. Burroughs, Clive Barker, Tolkien, Jim Carroll, Frank O’Hara, Carson Mccullers, Celine, John Fante, (I love what his son, Dan Fante, is writing)Camus, Nabokov, Ed McBain. Don’t get me wrong, none of them are bad writers (except Burroughs, who’s flat out awful.) I was just in a different place in my life when I was reading them and they don’t have the same resonance for me as they once did.
On the opposite end, I started reading Faulkner a couple of years ago after spending years of picking up and putting down his books after twenty or so pages and I’ve found myself really enjoying his work, especially the short stories . Same thing goes for Ross MacDonald.
The big guns are still the same for me, though: Hemingway, Thompson, Stark, Ellroy. Bruen, Stella, Hubert Selby Jr., Ed Bunker.
|PDB) Colin Wilson’s in-laws once found a manuscript of a book he was writing about sexual deviants and they demanded that their daughter leave Wilson and attacked him with a bullwhip. Has anything similar happened to you?|
Keith) No. I don’t think my in-laws have ever read anything I’ve ever written (neither one of them are big into surfing the net.) and the wife reads just about everything I write and if something upsets her too much, she stops reading and lets me know that she thinks I’ve gone too far, but for the most part she understands that sex and violence is part of what I write
PDB) What’s in the pipeline for Keith Rawson’s writing in 2010? How’s the novel coming along?
Keith)Good question. My first one, Retirement, (I don’t know if I’m even calling it that anymore) recently went under an editorial eye and I walked away with some great notes that are helping me tighten it. I’m aiming for the end of February to start sending it out. I finished a 32,000 word novella called Pervert #16 that I don’t know what to do with. I’m thinking about expanding it another ten or fifteen thousand words, but right now it’s just sitting on my hard drive.
What I’m working on now is based off the characters from my story, “performance anxiety’. I’m having fun with it.
I’m also working on some interesting stuff with Crime Factory. Nothing I’m ready to talk about yet, but it’s got me pretty excited