Given that it's the spookiest time of the year, I thought we'd take a foray into the world of horror fiction with someone who actually writes it. I've always been a fan of writers like Stephen King (and now his son, Joe Hill), but they didn't seem to get my repeated emails asking them for interviews, so I had to settle for someone even better: the slightly demented and always entertaining Jeff Strand.
I discovered Jeff's particular blend of comedy and horror when I found his Andrew Mayhem series: GRAVEROBBERS WANTED: NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY, CASKET FOR SALE: ONLY USED ONCE, and of course, the wildly entertaining SINGLE WHITE PSYCHOPATH SEEKS SAME.
"Sure," I thought, "the guy knows how to write dark comedies, but what about something more serious?" Then I read PRESSURE, a top-notch psychological thriller that was nominated for the coveted Bram Stoker award in 2009 (and has since been optioned by Identity Films). Excellent book, as was his next, DWELLER, a strangely touching tale about the ill-fated lives of a boy and his monster.
Jeff also writes quite a bit of the darker stuff, some of it too dark for my tastes (as I am a big scaredy-cat weenie who prefers a good spine-tingling to a an actual bloodbath, but if you don't mind a few dismembered bodies or brains on the ceiling, Jeff's your man!)
A perfect example of this is his recently released collaborative vampire novel DRACULAS, which was co-written with some other guys whose names I can't remember. (Buy it, so you can proudly say you read him before he became famous.) As much as I enjoy Jeff's work, I will NOT be reading it, because he's already advised me that it's not safe for scaredy-cat weenies like me to read, but surely you're not afraid of a little bloodsplatter, are you, dear readers? :-)
Anyway, Jeff's a prolific and talented guy whose writing never fails to entertain (bloodstains or no bloodstains) and he's been gracious enough to answer a few questions for me today on the blog, in honor of Halloween:
Hi, Jeff! Thanks for the interview! Have you always been a fan of the horror genre, or was that something that developed gradually? Any particular moment when you decided that horror fiction was the perfect outlet for your clearly twisted imagination?
I've wanted to be a horror fan since I was about six, after I got a book called THINGS YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT MONSTERS BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK by Tony Tallarico. But I was far too cowardly to actually watch those movies. So I didn't really become a horror fan until high school, at which point my friends and I would watch 4 or 5 horror flicks every weekend instead of engaging in underage drinking or interacting with females.
The moment of truth was after I had four novels out, each of which were in a different genre. And I thought "I really need to focus." The most popular of the four by far was GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY), which everybody was calling a horror novel even though I'd planned to write a mystery/thriller, so I decided "Okay, I'm going to write horror!" And then I wrote a bunch of it.
So tell us about DRACULAS—I heard it has both vampires AND scary clowns? Oh, and who are those other guys… you know, those co-authors whose names I can’t remember?
It has lots and lots and lots of vampires and one scary clown. It's basically a really fast-paced, action-packed, gory gory gory novel about a hospital that becomes overrun by vampires, none of which behave like Edward Cullen.
Co-author #1: F. Paul Wilson, the legendary creator of Repairman Jack and author of over 40 novels, including THE KEEP, THE SELECT, and BLACK WIND.
Co-author #2: Jack Kilborn, author of AFRAID, TRAPPED, and ENDURANCE, and the pen name of J.A. Konrath, creator of the Jack Daniels series.
Co-author #3: Blake Crouch, author of such awesome thrillers as LOCKED DOORS, DESERT PLACES, and SNOWBOUND.
So, yeah, I did some coattail riding on this one.
What was your favorite Halloween costume when you were a kid, and why?
Spider-Man, because as a kid I was obsessed with Spider-Man, although it was really more about the Electric Company version where he battled villains who stole letters out of words and stuff. But this wasn't a cool Halloween costume, it was a thin plastic Spider-Man mask, and then a costume that wasn't actually a duplicate of Spider-Man's costume, but rather a costume with Spider-Man's picture on the chest. I grew up in Alaska, so my trick-or-treating costumes had to fit over my snowsuit, which kind of limited my options.
Are you planning on doing anything special this Halloween?
I'm going to a Halloween party where we will watch the premiere of THE WALKING DEAD. People damn well better not talk during it.
I understand you’re an aficionado of horror movies… what movie would you recommend most for those who want to be scared witless while curled up on the couch on Halloween night?
I hate to offer up such a generic choice, but you really can't go wrong with the original HALLOWEEN. (And I mean original version. If the DVD has the words "Rob Zombie" on it, you are watching the wrong one and should immediately put it back where you found it. Back away quickly. Don't make eye contact.)
Another great Halloween movie that's much more recent is TRICK R' TREAT, which is an anthology film that has Anna Paquin from TRUE BLOOD. (Despite her presence, it never got a decent theatrical release, but I wouldn't want to clog up your blog with that particular rant.)
We’ll both be attending Necronomicon in St. Petersburg this weekend, and between the panels, the games, and the costume events it looks like there’s a lot going on. I’ve never been to a Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror convention before—any advice on what to expect?
It's kind of like Romantic Times, except that fewer of the men go around shirtless and the two genders are more equally distributed.
It's a lot of fun. You will, of course, see a lot of very elaborate, cool costumes. The panels are generally pretty informal. There are three different rooms playing movies all day/night, along with special events like DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG performed with a shadowcast, ROCKY HORROR-style. Free food in the con suite. A big room of gaming. I've never actually experienced the wonder of "filking," but it's where people perform songs based on SF/Fantasy/Horror media. An art show packed with awesomeness. And Kids and Canines will be there with cute doggies.
C'mon, Terri Garey will be there! How could somebody NOT want to go???
And your final question, worth bonus points and the Immunity Idol:
If all the gummi worms on the planet melted into a huge, globular ball of sugar, with its own intelligence, which then wanted you to call it “Lance”, would you switch to eating chocolate, or become a cannibal?
Chocolate. Even without the intelligence or the name Lance, I'd skip eating the huge globular ball. Gummi products are better in small form. A friend got me a giant gummi bear, which I have displayed on my desk, but I like having it just to say "Whoa! Look at the size of that gummi bear!" I don't actually want to eat it, because I'd get sick.
Also, I don't want to end this interview on a negative note, but why would this make me a cannibal? Are you calling me a gummi worm? YOU'RE the gummi worm, Garey! Ha!
Real mature, Strand. Real mature.
****** Jeff Strand is the author of numerous novels, novellas, short stories and articles, most involving blood and guts. He was nominated in 2009 by Horror Writers of America for the coveted Bram Stoker award, but Stephen King managed to snatch it from his bloody, broken grasp, even though he wasn't present to win. Visit Jeff on the website, Gleefully Macabre, at http://www.jeffstrand.com/.
I'm an author who writes romantically spooky tales about life among the undead. Call it Urban Fantasy or call it Paranormal Romance, my books are about devils, demons, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night.
(Meaning there's sex, but not icky, undead sex, I promise.)
The Devil's Bargain series
The Nicki Styx series
If you've bought, read or just seen any of my books in a bookstore or anywhere else, I'd love to hear about it!
Welcome to the twisted landscape of my brain, and don't worry... the zombies have been fed. :-)