Wednesday, May 22, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Alex Smith

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Alex Smith.

-----

What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

My book is called ARKDUST. It's my only book! It's a collection of short stories that have appeared in zine format as well as on my old tumblr blog where I wrote and posted superhero stories. I decided to collect the best of those, tidy them up a bit, and booki-fy em. I also included two new stories. The stories are weird, wild science fiction stories with cyberpunk and superhero elements told from an Afrofuturist perspective. They feature Black and POC queer characters in lead roles doing heroic, dumb, weird, noisy things.

Do you have any creative endeavors other than writing fiction (art, music, knitting)?

Yeah, I have often referred to myself as a jack of all trades, master of one (1), which the one being writing (I am gonna assume - I think I'm pretty dam good at it!) I sing for a band called Solarized (solarized.bandcamp.com) and play keys in a post-punk,noise-pop band called Rainbow Crimes (rainbowcrimes.bandcamp.com). I also DJ, curate music/art/literary events, draw, act (I have an IMDb page!) and dabble in fashion. Right now, a big passion of mine is collage art; as a zine and flyer maker I've sort of fallen into collage as a medium of expression and I've been doing it more and more, even getting commissions and displaying my art on walls in public. I kinda wish I could stick to one discipline, perhaps I'd have "made it" by now if I had hyper-concentrated. But I enjoy so many different artistic mediums so I've grown to accept the parts of me that are always discovering new ways of expression.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what? Is it different than what you listen to when you're not writing?

For the longest time I listened to Godspeed You Black Emperor! to write to, which I found out recently isn't that unique a thing! Much of ARKDUST was written to the Chromatics album Kill for Love because of its cinematic qualities and retrofuturist feel. Lately I find I need more soundscapes than actual songs, like I'll listen to selected stuff from William Basinski or Abul Mogard or Space Afrika. And film soundtracks that are sparse and cinematic like Annihilation, The Signal, Moonlight, Tron: Legacy and both Blade Runners. I have integrated all of these things into my everyday listening habits as well, so I'll just be bopping along up and down the streets or at home chilling playing this kinda stuff right alongside Moor Mother, Cardi B, Public Enemy, Soul Glo, etc. Also a healthy dose of synthwave bands like Midnight, Le Cassette, Timecop1983, Kristine or afrofuturist beatmakers like John Morrison, HPrizm, DJ.Fresh, Actress, Fhloston Paradigm, Joker. It all makes me feel like I'm in an 80's cyberpunk movie as I move through the Philadelphia streets.

Are you most afraid of ghosts, aliens, or clowns, and why?

Probably ghosts because of their unpredictability. It seems like poltergeists are almost always angry when they come back (or never leave?) and they're just disembodied energy that wasn't "solved" or whatever when it was on our plane of existence. Chill out ghosts! Ya'll scary as fuck!

What are your 3 favorite comic books (standalone novels or ongoing series) of all time?

This is a really tough question, there are a quite a few comics I love and all for different reasons. Hmm... I'm gonna say, the Grant Morrison run on Doom Patrol, including his Flex Mentallo mini-series (since Flex debuted in Doom Patrol, making it a spin off), which was/is essential to my own growth as a writer. I'm going to say Keith Giffen's Legion of Super-Heroes story known as the 5 Year Gap, which also had a profound impact on me, the concepts introduced in this book concepts introduced in this book continue to blow me away, even to this day. It also introduced me to the Legion of Super-Heroes, my favorite team of supers. This last one will be really hard to pick because no matter what I say, I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night and think, "shit, I shoulda said this one!" So I'm gonna talk about one specific comic book: Uncanny X-Men #255. I read it as a kid and was mortified. It featured cyborgs killing the mutants, and kind of shocked me into the reality that every time superheroes go into battle, they do so with real stakes at hand. There's a summary of it here, which doesn't do it justice to the terror I felt as a young'un reading this for the first time.

If you could share a beverage with any fictional character, who would it be, and what would you drink?

Hmm, probably a really nice handpoured or french pressed decaf from the 3rd or 4th best coffee shop in any of the major cities and it would be with Bouncing Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes. I would spend the entire time staring into his beautiful doey eyes. He reminds me of my partner Shane!

What's your secret?

Fight bad guys, kiss some beards, cartoons tell you everything, do karate, meditate, drink the sickest coffee, smash your head on the punk rock, all cops are bad, black lives matter, and silence = death.

-----

Alex Smith lives in the seams in the cloth of existence where he desperately stitches together universes with one hand and with the other, armed with an espresso tamp, makes valiant attempts to keep his lights on. 

A member of the sci-fi artist/activist collective Metropolarity, founder of the queer sci-fi reading series Laser Life, and curator of the retro-futurist electro mash-up art-jam Chrome City, Alex's stories and writings embolden the weird, strange, and revolutionary dichotomy of being Black and queer in a world that marginalizes both. 

Selected by Rosarium Publishing for Stories for Chip an anthology dedicated to the writing of Samuel Delany, and for Black Quantum Futurism's Space-Time Collapse: From the Congo to the Carolinas, it's Smith’s flash fiction collection Gang Stalk Oprah, self-published sci-fi zine A R K D U S T and super-hero space opera comic book BELIEVERS that will kidnap you, convert you, shoot you in the leg and then set you free.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Matt Serafini

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Matt Serafini.

-----

What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

MS: My latest book is RITES OF EXTINCTION (out now through Grindhouse Press). I think it's my most experimental narrative to date. I wanted to write a book where all you get are broad strokes. For example, there's plenty of allusions to the main character's past, certainly enough to give you a sense of who she is, but everything is kept purposefully vague. I wanted to strip away all the usual digressions and push the story forward like a rocket. Just to see if I could do it. In a certain sense, it was a very liberating process, discovering that I could.     

If it was socially acceptable to wear anything as clothing, how would you dress?

MS: Just like Don Johnson in Miami Vice. 24/7. I wear linen clothes from time-to-time, especially during the summer, and irony is the furthest thing from my mind. I'm obsessed with the aesthetics of that fashion and have always been. What's the quote from Return of the Living Dead? "You think this is a fucking costume? This is a way of life." I guess it's probably because I'd like to one day retire to the Miami shoreline, where the sun is hot and the drinks are cold. 

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what? Is it different than what you listen to when you're not writing?

MS: I always listen to music when I write. When I started finding my process, I wrote almost exclusively to film soundtracks: John Carpenter, Goblin, Hans Zimmer (specifically his Broken Arrow score) etc. Anything that helped me conjure the right words and put them on the page. Over the last eight years, I've started to listen to a lot of synthwave, both during the writing process as well as in my free time. I love the mood it evokes. It taps right into my creativity and gets me dreaming in the best of ways. One of my completed-but-as-of-yet-unpublished novels is directly inspired by this stuff.   

What was your greatest Halloween costume?

MS: A couple years back, I was "Bobbi" from DRESSED TO KILL. I went all out and bought the leather coat, an accurate wig, glasses, shoes... Only thing I couldn't find was the razor blade. I had to grab a huge rubbery prop razor, but that's okay. What really surprised me about my costume was how many non-genre people got it. A nice reminder that older film culture still resonates with people, even if they're not constantly talking about it.

What's the best movie, new or old, that you've seen for the first time in the past 3 months?

MS: Right now it's a tie between Craig Zahler's DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE and David Robert Mitchell's UNDER THE SILVER LAKE. Both of these movies are sprawling, but both feel incredibly personal and character driven. Both will probably be high on my list at the end of the year.

What is your writing environment like? (Are you out in public or in seclusion? Is there noise? Is there coffee? Do you type on a laptop or write longhand on lined notebook paper?)

MS: I write at home, mostly. I have a corner desk and loud music to blot out the rest of the world. I haven't written anything longhand in a while, but it's an exercise I'm willing to try. Anecdotally, some writers have told me that writing your first draft by hand helps solidly the story. Helps connect you to the material more directly. I think there's also a few research studies done that have drawn the same conclusion. My process is always evolving, so I'm not opposed to trying something new. 

If you could share a beverage with any fictional character, who would it be, and what would you drink?

MS: Definitely Sonny Crockett. I'd love to pick his brain. The job. The women. The drinks. Elvis the alligator! Those cars! He's got a million stories that I'd probably use for inspiration in my fiction. What would I drink? Well, I'll take that cue from the 2006 version of Crockett (played by Colin Farrell) and drink a couple of mojitos.

-----

Hailed as “one of the best new voices in horror fiction” by Brian Keene, Matt Serafini’s books include Rites of Extinction, Feral, Devil’s Row, Island Red, and Under the Blade, which FilmThrills called “one of the best slasher films you’ll ever read.” 

He co-authored a collection of short stories with Adam Cesare called All-Night Terror and his short fiction has appeared in numerous anthology collections, including Dead Bait 4, Clickers Forever: A Tribute to J.F. Gonzalez, and Welcome to the Show.

He has written extensively on the subjects of film and literature for numerous websites including Dread Central and Shock Till You Drop. His nonfiction has also appeared in the pages of Fangoria and HorrorHound.

Matt lives in Massachusetts with his wife and children.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with John Langan

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is John Langan.

-----

What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

JL: My latest is a collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals, which brings together a new short novel (Sefira) with another seven stories, one of which is also new. As a whole, the book is perhaps a bit more focused than my previous two collections. In terms of individual stories, I hope each one shows me moving in a different direction from what I've done before. 

Do you have any creative endeavors other than writing fiction (art, music, knitting)?

JL: I love to draw, a holdover from my childhood ambition to be a comic book artist. I also practice a martial art called Tang Soo Do, which is a kind of blend of Shotokan karate and Tae Kwon Do.

Who or what is your favorite movie monster, and why? 

JL: You know, I love Godzilla in particular, and giant-monster movies in general, which probably connects to a childhood love of dinosaurs. (I've written a couple of stories with giant creatures in them, but have yet to write a full-length, Gorgo- or Beast-From-20,000-Fathoms-type piece.) That said, I seem to return to vampires in my viewing (and reading) a great deal; I'm less sure why that is. (Maybe simply that I've read a lot of great vampire novels and seen a lot of great vampire movies.)

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what? Is it different than what you listen to when you're not writing?

JL: I don't listen to music, which I used to when I was (much) younger and sat down to write. (Way back then, it was Springsteen's Born in the USA, or another such high-energy album, on vinyl.) These days, the only soundtrack I require for working consists of the background noises of my house: my wife, our son, the five dogs. 

What was your greatest Halloween costume?

JL: I think it was the year I dressed up as Dracula. I think I wore my First Communion suit, and for a cape one of my mother's long dark skirts, safety-pinned to the jacket's shoulders. I whitened my face and wore oversized plastic fangs that channeled the spit in my mouth out in ropes of drool. Oddly, that was the costume that most made me feel as if I had become something else, something closer to what I was pretending to be.

What's the best movie, new or old, that you've seen for the first time in the past 3 months?

JL: I recently saw the original Taking of Pelham 123. Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw ftw, as the kids say.

Have you traveled outside your home country, and if so, where? Where would you like to go that you haven't been yet?

JL: My family is from Scotland, so I've been there more than anyplace else. I've also visited England—London—a couple of times. I've been to France twice, once to Provence, and once to Paris. I've been to Canada as well, Quebec and Ontario. I would dearly love to visit Italy.

-----

John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows, and three collections of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters. For The Fisherman, he was awarded the Bram Stoker and This Is Horror awards. With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters. He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for whose first three years he served as a juror. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus Magazine. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife, younger son, and he isn’t sure how many animals, anymore. (Author Photo by Fiona Paton)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Gwendolyn Kiste

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Gwendolyn Kiste.

-----

What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work? 

GK: My most recent book is my debut novel, The Rust Maidens. It’s all about the Rust Belt and girls transforming into grotesque yet beautiful monsters. Most of my previous work has been short fiction, so this is definitely my most ambitious project so far. It’s the longest, of course, since it’s my first novel, but it also has a more intricate story, with a back-and-forth narrative split between 1980 and 2008. Because more than half the book is set in 1980, a lot of research went into the project, more than anything else I’ve ever written. It was certainly a challenge at times, but then what fun is writing if it doesn’t utterly baffle and challenge us?

Who or what is your favorite movie monster, and why?

GK: Pumpkinhead immediately jumps to mind for me. I’m a huge fan of practical effects, and there are few costume monsters that are more elaborate and well-done than that one. His horrific yet wonderfully expressive face! That perpetually foggy atmosphere that surrounds him! He’s one for the ages. 

Unfortunately, I do feel like the first film has a lot of flaws—and I’ve never been able to get through any of the sequels—but I still think Pumpkinhead deserves more love than he gets. He’s certainly a great folk horror monster, if nothing else. 

Are you most afraid of ghosts, aliens, or clowns, and why? 

GK: Ghosts, for sure. Clowns have never really frightened me. I don’t particularly like them, but they’ve never bothered me much either. As for extraterrestrials, I feel like we’d so handily lose against hostile aliens that there’s probably no point in being afraid. They’ll likely kill us swiftly to get us out of the way if that’s what they want. So ghosts are definitely the scariest to me. They could haunt you for the rest of your life. Since they’ll be dead for eternity, ghosts can also stand to be patient, and without a doubt, that’s what makes a formidable foe.

If you could be reincarnated as a sentient but inanimate object, what would you like to be?  

GK: I’m going to go big with this question and say Saturn. It was always my favorite planet when I was young. In all the photographs and illustrations, Saturn looks so fearsome. From the time I was in elementary school, I imagined that she was wearing her rings like armor. Because Jupiter is bigger and also one of the nearest planets to Saturn, I decided that Jupiter was kind of the bully of the Solar System, and that he hassled Saturn, so she grew her rings as a way to ward him off. That strange little backstory only made me love Saturn more as a kid, so it would be fun to spend some time actually being reincarnated as her.   

What is your writing environment like? (Are you out in public or in seclusion? Is there noise? Is there coffee? Do you type on a laptop or write longhand on lined notebook paper?)

GK: My writing environment is everchanging, though one thing is a constant: there’s always coffee. And lots of it too. I spend a decent bit of my time writing in coffee shops, though I’ve been working from home more lately, just to break things up. Either way, I crave some ambient noise in the background. Complete silence is a distraction to me.

As a rule, I do write out a lot of my first draft notes by hand, which leads to grand confusion, since I can’t always read my own handwriting. It’s usually best when I just sit down at my computer and type everything out right from the start, but there’s something really great about writing a story longhand, if for no other reason than the nostalgia and romance of it. It seems like how writers should work, even if that doesn’t always turn out well for me and my sloppy penmanship. 

Twilight Zone or Outer Limits? 

GK: The Twilight Zone, without a doubt. I grew up absolutely loving—and being a little terrified of—the show. It introduced me to so many of my now-favorite horror tropes: doppelgangers, ghostly hitchhikers, and gremlins that are definitely not in the Mogwai tradition. I enjoy The Outer Limits as well, but I just never developed quite the same love for it. Part of what has always drawn me into The Twilight Zone is the veiled/not-so-veiled social commentary, which still resonates to this day. After all these years of watching and re-watching the series, Rod Serling practically feels like extended family to me. 

If you could share a beverage with any fictional character, who would it be, and what would you drink? 

GK: A mint julep with Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby. She’s always been a character that I’ve found fascinating, even though she doesn’t seem to get much attention. When Daisy Buchanan’s right there, siphoning all the spotlight, I guess that happens. But there’s something subtly captivating about Jordan. Of course, I’m not saying that she’s necessarily the nicest of characters—nobody in that novel is very nice or admirable—but she’s still such a chameleon, willing to rebel against social convention to become an athlete at a time women rarely pursued such opportunities. Throughout the novel, she proves she’s uniquely equipped at surviving, even in hostile environments, and that alone makes her interesting. Plus, I imagine she’d be a very fun drinking partner, and really, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a night of cocktails in a Gilded Age speakeasy? 

-----

Gwendolyn Kiste is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, from JournalStone; the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, from Broken Eye Books; and her debut novel, The Rust Maidens, from Trepidatio Publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, LampLight, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye as well as Flame Tree Publishing's Chilling Horror Short Stories and Haunted House anthologies, among other outlets.

Originally from Ohio, she now resides on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. You can find her online at gwendolynkiste.com.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with J.S. Breukelaar

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is J.S. Breukelaar.

-----

What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

JSB: My latest book is called Collision: Stories. It’s out from Meerkat Press, who are publishing me for the first time, but not the last. They are terrific. It is different than my previous two books for one, because they were novels, and this is a collection of stories with one novella. It’s also different because this is the first book that has been illustrated, a lifelong dream. Keith Rosson’s gorgeous illustrations nail my vibe, or rather complement it in really interesting ways, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

The collection itself, or rather the content, is continuous with my previous work in that the stories bend genre to breaking point, so that in the end, the only thing left is character, wounded, beaten, bested but still somehow here, even if in very different form than what they thought they’d be. In the introduction which Angela Slatter honored me by writing, she mentions an element of hope in each work, which I was glad she saw. Because I did too.

Do you have any creative endeavors other than writing fiction (art, music, knitting)?

JSB: I run, if that counts. I like music, and play a little bit of keyboard very softly with all the doors shut.

If it was socially acceptable to wear anything as clothing, how would you dress?

JSB: I live in Sydney, Australia, where anything goes, so I have no excuse to pull whatever’s lying on the floor onto my body with one hand, while sipping coffee with the other, except money.  If I could afford to dress any way I want to I would stand at my keyboard in Lady Gaga drag for sure. My favorite outfit of hers is a huge suit, jacket and trousers, bigger than David Byrne’s in Talking Heads, platform shoes (because I’m a shortie) and nothing else.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what? Is it different than what you listen to when you're not writing?

JSB: Music is the jumping off point for many of my stories. I curate songs for a playlist for everything I write, and if you’re interested you can read about my playlist for Collision here.

Generally speaking, for novels, I listen to instrumental stuff, usually, soundtracks like It Follows, or WestWorld, or bands like Fever Ray or Radiohead, or Beastie Boys albums like The Mix Up, or vocalists who sing in languages other than English, like Christine and the Queens, or where the instrumentals are lush and the voice is just another instrument, like Bjork. Anything so that the lyrics don’t interfere, unless I want them to, so then I listen to that album or playlist in a loop. So I recently wrote a story that circuitously tapped into Led Zeppelin IV, which I hadn’t listened to forever, and I played that throughout the drafting of the story.  So the music I listen to when I’m not writing is varied—but when I’m writing, I have a go-to of stuff specific to the work.

What was your greatest Halloween costume? 

JSB: Last year when I had a rubber fork impaled in my head. The fork was meant to be stuck in my eye, but the rubber flap with all the fake blood oozing out of it kept falling off and the supposedly non-toxic glue pulled my eyelashes out with it, and the blood burned like an SOB, so after a couple of vodkas I just stuck it on my forehead and it stayed there. I am still waiting for my eyelashes to grow back. 

What's the best movie, new or old, that you've seen for the first time in the past 3 months?

JSB: Suspiria. Both of them. Not the best, but on my bucket list, and definitely glad I did.

If you could be reincarnated as a sentient but inanimate object, what would you like to be?

JSB: A song.

-----

J.S. Breukelaar is the author of Collision: Stories, the Aurealis-nominated novel Aletheia, and American Monster, a Wonderland Award finalist. She has published stories, poems and essays in publications such as Gamut, Black Static, Unnerving, Lightspeed, Lamplight and elsewhere. She is a columnist and regular instructor at LitReactor.com. California-born and New York raised, she currently lives in Sydney, Australia with her family. You can find her at www.thelivingsuitcase.com and twitter.com/jsbreukelaar.