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.

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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.

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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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with John Wayne Comunale

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 Wayne Comunale.

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

JWC: My latest book, As Seen On T.V. (Grindhouse Press), while similar in voice, is a departure from my previous work that started to show up two books ago in Death Pacts and Left-Hand Paths. My books leading up to it were very grounded in the Bizarro genre, but I've been refining the horror aspects of my writing for no reason other than it just seems to be the natural progression. While there are elements of humor here and there in As Seen On T.V. they play more as echoes of my Bizarro books. Magical Realism and the occult have become more prevalent in my latest works and help play more toward the dark, horror side of things. I'm still a Bizarro through and through, which has helped in my more horror-themed work.

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

JWC: I play guitar and sing in a punk rock band called johnwayneisdead, and I host my weekly story telling podcast called John Wayne Lied to You. I love to draw as well, but don't have much time to do it. I did, however, draw the cover for As Seen On T.V. 

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?

JWC: I do listen to music almost always while writing. I listen mainly to a lot of Doom and Stoner Rock from bands like Sunn, Electric Wizard, Pallbearer, Boris, etc. The growling low end, and sparse lyrics allow me to block everything else out and focus on only what I'm writing. I'll listen to other metal where the singing is a bigger part of the music, but I prefer more instrumental tracks. When I'm not writing I listen to a lot of punk, pop-punk, and other iterations of the genre like Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms, The Riverboat Gamblers, The Marked Men, etc. because I like to sing along while I'm driving or just chilling at home. I still listen to heavier music as well, but it's mostly when I write.

If you could survive on one food for the rest of your life with no health repercussions, what would it be?

JWC: I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't really like food for any reason other than I need it to stay alive. I never crave anything particular nor do I have any interest in trying different foods because it's just not important to me. If I could survive on only smoking weed without ever putting a morsel of food in my stomach that would be preferable.

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

JWC: Thanks to many key experiences while on heavy doses of mushrooms I'm not really afraid of anything anymore. Fear seems to be the main thing that holds people back, and is used as a way to control. I refuse to be controlled by fear, so I just don't accept being afraid of anything. It's a very freeing mindset.

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?)

JWC: I write in a room of my house I've made into what I have lovingly dubbed The Library of Evil. The walls are painted dark red, and the baseboards and trim are black. My bookshelves and record collection reside in this room along with one of my turntables, and a black couch. The windows are covered by a pentagram flag and a Canadian flag respectfully, and atop my small table are a Ouija board and tarot cards. I'm typically listening to records like the ones I described in the question above. I usually have a pipe of weed within arms reach, and I mostly drink coffee while I'm writing. I always use my laptop for writing, and take only notes longhand in a custom notebook with a Pentagram burned into the leather on the front, and the numbers 666 on the back made lovingly for me by Earthworks Journals.

What happens when you die?

JWC: I don't remember what it was like before I was born, so I imagine it's about the same when you're dead.

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John Wayne Comunale lives in Houston, Texas to prepare himself for the heat in Hell. He is the author of The Porn Star Retirement Plan, Charge Land, Aunt Poster, John Wayne Lied to You, Death Pacts and Left-Hand Paths, Scummer, As Seen On T.V. and Sinkhole. He fronts the punk rock disaster, johnwayneisdead, and travels around the country playing music and appearing at Horror Conventions to sling his books. John Wayne was an American actor who died in 1979.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Charles Austin Muir

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 Charles Austin Muir.

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

CAM: This is a Horror Book (CLASH Books)—which you were kind enough to blurb! It’s a collection of comedic, raunchy, self-mocking metahorror loaded with chaos magic and pop culture references unlike any other horror fiction I’ve written. My previous horror stories were pretty straightforward and serious. 

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

CAM: I’d dress like Doctor Doom—magic cloak, cape medallions, titanium battle suit with infrared vision. I’d spend all day and night pacing on my battlements. I’d unleash my energy fist on some of my dumb-ass neighbors.
If you could invent a new sport, what would it be like?

CAM: Do you remember the ‘70s TV show, Starsky and Hutch? A friend and I came up with the idea of developing the Starsky and Hutch Fitness Tournament. You’re sprinting up flights of stairs, running zigzag patterns in alleys, jumping down onto the hoods of parked cars and shoving shopping carts at your opponents. Long before CrossFit, Starsky and Hutch performed high-intensity interval workouts in highly unstable, randomly varied urban environments. In tight jeans!

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

CAM: I stayed in Greece with a friend and his family in the summer of 1998. My wife and I went to Belize in 2008. She and I also traveled to Oulu, Finland, for the World Air Guitar Championships in 2015. I want to go to Scotland someday. I want to walk around in a castle. I’ll pretend it’s Doctor Doom’s castle.

If you could survive on one food for the rest of your life with no health repercussions, what would it be?

CAM: It’s a toss-up between Hawaiian-style macaroni salad and a Philly cheese steak hoagie. 

Twilight Zone or Outer Limits?

CAM: Twilight Zone. Although The Outer Limits episode, “The Forms of Things Unknown,” blows me away every time I watch it. And I have a soft spot for “The Zanti Misfits” because it’s one of the influences that inspired my cousin Brian Domonic Muir to write Critters

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

CAM: That’s easy! I would finish off a bottle of J & B with MacReady while we watched the camp burn. 

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Charles Austin Muir is the author of This is a Horror Book and Bodybuilding Spider Rangers and Other Stories. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies such as 18 Wheels of Horror, Peel Back the Skin and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1. Before he became a therapeutic exercise trainer, he worked as a journalist. He has written obituaries, humor columns and fitness articles and preached the health benefits of playing air guitar. He lives with his wife, Kara, who shreds a mean air guitar, pugs and pit lab mix in Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Autumn Christian

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 Autumn Christian.

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

AC: My latest book is Girl Like a Bomb, out from CLASH books. All of my other books had a dark color scheme, Girl Like a Bomb is a pink cotton-candy colored book floating in a flossy heaven. It's my first non-horror book. There is about 30x more sex scenes in Girl Like a Bomb than my previous books. It has a protagonist devoid of most of my natural anxieties. Good things happen. I wrote it at a time when I was sick of being an angry baby, content with destroying virtual worlds, when I wanted to expand the mythology of my own writing.

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

AC: I like to cook. It's like creative math, and everything exists in reality, where actions makes sense. Then when you're finished, you have an actual product to consume.

I used to design and write for video games. I used to do a little bit of fire poi (Swinging balls of fire around basically), and I'm getting back into martial arts, although I don't know if that's considered creative. I've usually avoided doing any other creative things, because I feel like it saps my energy away from my writing. I like to channel everything into one singular purpose.

What was your greatest Halloween costume?

AC: I was Marla Singer from Fight Club. Everyone said I already dressed like that.

If you could survive on one food for the rest of your life with no health repercussions, what would it be?

AC: Pizza. It is the perfect combination of fat, carbs, and protein and flavors designed to taste delicious. It is the food that soaks up the flavors of the world around it. It is infinite in its ingredient combinations, although in general I go for the pepperoni.

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

AC: A supercomputer. For obvious reasons.

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?)

AC: I actually have my own office, after many years of writing on the corner of an inflatable mattress, or in various coffee shops knocking elbows with people, or on the floor hunched over a laptop, trying not to tip over the tea balanced against my knees. I enjoy the noise of music, or the sound of rain. Sometimes I'll have a movie running on one of the monitors because there's something calming about movement in the periphery.

I write on my laptop hooked up to a secondary monitor with a mechanical keyboard. I'll occasionally go outside and write on a notebook but it is furiously slow, although often less distracting. I can feel the pulse of my brain as the words rattle around but I can't get them down fast enough, but also I don't get distracted by Twitter.

What's the most disgusting thing about the human body?

AC: That if you listen closely you can hear the salty blood inside you sloshing around, and you realize that you're about 70% water and you're basically a bunch of fluid protected by a thin layer of skin like a balloon.

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Autumn Christian is a fiction writer from Texas who currently lives in California. She is the author of the books, Girl Like a Bomb, The Crooked God Machine, We are Wormwood, and Ecstatic Inferno, and has written for several video-games, including Battle Nations and State of Decay 2. When not writing, she is usually practicing her side kicks and running with dogs, or posting strange and existential Instagram selfies.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Patrick Lacey

After a three year hiatus, it's back!

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 Patrick Lacey.

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

PL: My newest book is a novel entitled WHERE STARS WON'T SHINE. Scott Cole created that gorgeous cover. Do you know him? You should work with him. WSWS is a bit more serious than my previous stuff. It deals with the idolization of serial killers, which isn't necessarily a joyous subject, but there's also some harmless spooky stuff. Some people say that I'm obsessed with haunted locales just because I've written books about haunted amusement parks and haunted schools and now a haunted town but they're clearly wrong. I'm actually quite proud of WSWS. It took the most research out of all my books, which involved a butt load of true crime (again with the happy-go-lucky stuff) and it's the leanest/meanest thing I've published. People seem to be digging it too, which adds to the charm.

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

PL: The obvious answer is Fred Krueger. Anyone who's followed me on social media for more than thirty seconds knows I'm obsessed. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is one of the first movies I remember watching. My parents let me see it at age five. Controversial perhaps but it set off a life-long obsession and a few (dozen) night terrors that lasted just over a month (decade). But that's sort of cheating since Freddy is technically a human or at least is human adjacent.

So let's go with the monsters from HOUSE, another childhood favorite, specifically the evil twin versions of some of the main characters. Upon first viewing (now a mature and wiser seven-year-old), I became convinced there existed deformed doppelgangers of everyone I knew, and they dwelled within an alternate dimension accessible only by an old well (I've still never seen a well in my life, so I'm open to interpretations). To this day, even though the film is played mostly for laughs, I get a shiver when I see those things. Although, now that I'm thinking about it they, too, are human adjacent, so this is a very long way of saying I really like Gremlins.

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?

PL: I don't listen to music while I write. Should I just end the answer there? Once upon a time I went to school for audio engineering and the instructors trained our ears to listen to songs so closely, it bordered on maddening. Whenever most genres music are playing, my attention span goes out the window. On the flipside, I do listen to music while I edit. Not sure how it works but it does. Helps me focus and I know that goes against everything I just said but the world is filled with mystery. There are a few caveats. Nothing with vocals or lyrics, though it's tough have the latter without the former anyway. It can't be anything too technical, so my go-to's are various horror soundtracks. Off the top of my head: THE VVITCH, SPOOKIES, HALLOWEEN III, and literally every other score with John Carpenter's name on it.

What was your greatest Halloween costume?

PL: That's a tough one. I'm a big Halloween guy. I get excited the moment it drops below 103 degrees in August and I have pumpkin spice coffee on deck all year round. I've worn many costumes, even some during Halloween, but the one that sticks out in my mind, the one that is by far the most preposterous, is that time I dressed as Zombie Fred Durst. Take a moment. Breathe. Now let's dive in. In eighth grade, I was as into nu metal as I was RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which answers so many questions in hindsight. Most people wouldn't consider combining the two. But you've got to think outside the box with Halloween. Don't just be a vampire. Be a vampire who's also a used car salesman. Don't be a werewolf unless that werewolf is also half Terminator. The concept alone takes the cake but if I'm being honest, the execution was questionable. I wore a backwards Yankees hate and applied store-bought latex to my face. Made myself look like raw hamburger. Not even like gore but actually ground beef. Basically I was a young Tom Savini, only better.

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

PL: UNINVITED. It's got a mutated cat that boards a yacht and another smaller, slightly more mutated cat comes out of the first mutated cat's mouth and bites people's ankles. It's the best piece of art I've ever known.

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

PL: Ghosts. I've talked at length about this on podcasts, and I'm one step away from having a James Wan film based on my life, but I grew up in a haunted house. Laugh if you want but the place was no good. Scratching in the walls. Handprints on windows. Voices in the night. You name it, it happened. The land line called my cell twice when no one was home, and each time I heard heavy breathing. Haven't lived there for almost ten years but I still have nightmares. I'm back in the house and I forgot to move all my stuff and it's a race to get out before the ghosts get wise. I'm also fascinated with anything paranormal. I watch reruns of GHOST HUNTERS with little to no shame, and I've attended more ghost tours than I have college classes. The math's iffy but allow me the hyperbole.

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?)

PL: Most of the time, I write at home, though I do occasionally travel to my local coffee shop for a cold brew and an ego boost when neighboring tables assume I'm a real writer. My home office is also a toy room. It's got hundreds of action figures and vintage horror paperbacks and a six-foot-tall Freddy Krueger cardboard cutout (#onbrand). My desk is cluttered with only a tiny space carved out for my decade-old MacBook. I've always been a fan of controlled chaos. It just jives with me. Someone might take a look at the setup and call the producers of HOARDERS, but to me everything has a distinct place, from the foot-long Bat Gremlin figure to the oversized yeti bust my fiancee bought me. I like to sip a nice IPA if it's past five (or noon). Oddly enough, there can't be any snacks of any kind. I don't know what it is, but I can't read or write while I eat. Some people have talent but I just work with what I've got.

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Patrick Lacey spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts with his fiancee, his Pomeranian, his over-sized cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him.