Tuesday, May 14, 2019

PROM NIGHT: MY STOKERCON RECAP


Carrie by Stephen King was one of my favorite movies growing up and it remains one of my favorite books to this day. Most of you are probably familiar with the story: a young girl goes through some pretty scary transformations, gets bullied, puts on a prom dress, and then kills everyone for ruining that dress. As a kid, I remember cheering when Carrie lost it, and it was around that time that I knew I wasn’t watching horror movies like the rest of my friends were. I loved monsters, and later on in life, I started to create some of my own, and then later after that, I started sharing my monsters with the world, with all of you.

Being a Guest of Honor at StokerCon 2019 was a definite highlight of my career, and I honestly feel so inspired that truth be told, I want to just lock myself in my office for the next three months and do nothing but write (and I should because I have a ton of stuff in store for you all soon!). You see, our community is nothing like Carrie White’s was. It’s welcoming, it’s loving, it’s a family that gives you knives to play with instead of lodging them in your back when you’re not looking. We walk into parties covered in blood and when we accidentally throw a chair across the room, people cheer instead of running away. What I mean to say—telekinesis issues aside—is that with this group of people, our differences are celebrated, encouraged, and supported. Here, we’ve found our tribe: we’re home.


From the moment I walked into the Grand Amway Hotel, I was bombarded by hugs, and I don’t think that I stopped hugging people until I literally got into my cab to leave. It was a wonderful weekend filled with discussions about genre, diversity, and inclusivity, and I met so many brave people who were willing to tell their stories and share their experiences, both good and bad in hopes of making a difference.

*A big thank you to Krystal Hammond for putting together the "When Your Life Becomes the Horror Story: Writing Through Personal Tragedy" panel, and hugs and thanks to my fellow panelists Brian Keene, Cnythia Pelayo, and Mary Turzillo for their strength and bravery. I'm happy and blessed to know all of you.

Thursday was filled with a quick nap after we got in and then appropriately followed up with lunch/beers with Brian Kirk. Which reminds me—have you read Will Haunt You yet? If not, you should fix that! I then got to see more friends later on that night after the opening ceremonies and was thrilled to see so much of the RDSP crew there. Lisa Morton did such a wonderful job welcoming us all to the conference and I want to take a moment here to thank her for being our fearless leader these past four months. She was and remains an absolute rock star.

Friday was a total blast because I got to spend more time with Kathe Koja, Josh Malerman, Robert R. McCammon, and Kaaron Warren (who can karaoke better than anyone I’ve ever met!). We talked about how horror is the original literature, and then I told everyone about how I mummified a cat when I was 17 for my graduation capstone. This sparked a lot of laughs and a lot of questions, and when McCammon wants to know more about your mummification process, well, you stop and tell him about your mummification process. Talk about an ice breaker!


Saturday was filled with panels about film and poetry, about mental health and feminism, and I got to sign a ton of books and even share a reading slot with friend and colleague David Cowen (whose poetry you should also read). I also particularly enjoyed being on the Dr. Caligari panel with Andy Davidson, Jonathan Lees, John Skipp, and Amanda Trujillo. Talk about a great discussion! A big thanks to Nicholas Diak for being a fantastic moderator (and for hooking me up with some new music).

After that, it was time to change for the Stokers and sneak in a drink with some old friends before the banquet. Dinner was great and full of laughs, and Jonathan Maberry killed with his opening speech—seriously, I was in tears—and he also dropped news that the new vision of Weird Tales is going to go live in July. I’m super stoked about this because I’ll have a selection of poems appearing in the first issue: “Erasure,” “A Woman Who Still Knows How to Die,” “Outside the Shells of Horseshoe Crabs,” “Due to the Memory of Scars” and “What Waits in Trees.” I also got to present the award for best first novel (congrats Gwendolyn!) and watch Raw Dog Screaming Press accept the Specialty Press award, an award that they are so incredibly worthy of that it feels my heart with joy. Plus, add in that my editor Eugene Johnson won best non-fiction with It’sAlive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life and phew! It was a wonderful evening.

Needless to say, Sunday was (and is always) a bittersweet day because it’s time to head home, but I welcomed the sleep and a few quiet moments to think about all the memories that were created this weekend. I got to chat with my friends and clients about new books and ideas, finally got to meet Gabino Iglesias, Saba Razvi, Becky Spratford, and Brian Keene, and made a ton of new friends who I’m excited to get to know better and share lots of book recommendations with.

I have a lot of fun stuff coming up and out for you all this year, so keep your eyes and ears open! I will say that my next poetry collection The Apocalyptic Mannequin is coming our on August 15th from Raw Dog screaming press, and you can read more about it here. I'll be sure to update you all with the cover reveal and some other fun announcement as soon as I can.

Again, a big thank you to the HWA, to Brian Matthews, Lisa Morton, Rena Mason, Brad Hodson, all the volunteers, and all of you for your love, your friendship, and your support. This past weekend was a surreal, beautiful dream, and I felt like a Prom Queen.



With pig's blood and flowers,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

[WE] WILL HAUNT YOU: Wytovich and Kirk Discuss Surrealism and Horror


Hello and Good Afternoon, Friends and Fiends!

Today in the Madhouse, I’m hosting one of my favorite people alive: Brian Kirk. Now Brian and I first met in Vegas at the 2016 StokerCon and it was pretty much friendship at first sight. In fact, as I’m writing this (and as you’re reading it) we’re both off to StokerCon 2019 in Grand Rapids, MI where we’ll be running around and laughing (way too loud of course—have you met us?), so please be sure to drop by, say hello, and join in on the fun!

However, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Brian and his work, he is an author of unsettling stories—and I do mean unsettling. In fact, his story from Gutted: BeautifulHorror Stories (“Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave”) still creeps into my head and haunts my days from time to time. His debut novel, We Are Monsters, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in the first novel category and his short fiction has been published in several notable magazines and anthologies, such Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, andUndefinable Wonders, which won a Bram Stoker Award.

His latest novel is a work of surreal horror titled Will Haunt You, which has been called one of the most anticipated novels of 2019. And let me tell you folks—that’s not an exaggeration. I was lucky enough to be a beta-reader for this novel, and I can actually remember saving it to my desktop at work and reading pieces of it throughout the day. I say throughout the day because I literally had to put it away from time to time because paranoia was a very real thing for me while I was reading this book. In fact, this is the type of novel that slowly seeps inside of you and makes you question everything. But that’s the beauty of horror and surrealism, and while he only (swears) he kills his characters, this book will certainly have you checking over your shoulder just in case.

Now I wanted to switch things up a bit today and instead of the regular Q&A session that I like to do with authors, Brian and I hare going to discuss the intersection of horror and surrealism and how they tie into his book Will Haunt You. Inside you’ll get some background insight into his process, tons of book/movies recommendations, and a couple embarrassing stories, too, for good measure.

So sit back, join the tea party, and get ready to go to Wonderland!
Stephanie M. Wytovich

SW: Alrighty, let’s kick things off with hearing about the book a bit. What gave you the idea to create in this world, and in your opinion, what does it represent at its most literal and figurative heights?

BK: Will Haunt You is a book created by a mysterious figure who preys upon the people who read it. The idea was inspired by the story of a neighbor of mine who disappeared after discovering a strange book in her home. I witnessed her terrifying ordeal unfold on a community website called Nextdoor(dot)com, and managed to capture screen grabs of the posts she created, which can be viewed here. I’m not sure whether or not these posts are authentic, but the OBSIDEO book featured in the posts is what inspired my novel Will Haunt You.

My view on Will Haunt You is that it is more of an experience than a story.

SW: I could not agree with you more. This book really does read you in a lot of ways, so much so that years later, I can still vividly remember reading it for the first time. I’m curious though, what was your favorite part of the book to create and explore, and then to play devil’s advocate, what was the hardest for you?

BK: My favorite part of the book came while I was experiencing the OBSIDEO narrative that preceded the novel. I’ve always been fascinated with urban legends, and this felt like I was being sucked into one. When the Story of OBSIDEO was released to the public, it sparked the imaginations of many people following along, prompting readers and writers to contribute their own elements to the story. All of a sudden, there was a collective of people improvisationally collaborating on a story being told in real time. The story felt like it took on a life of its own, which was fun and exciting to be a part of.

The most difficult part of creating a book, for me, is everything that comes after I’ve written it. There’s a saying that goes something like, “I hate to write, but love having written.” I’m basically the polar opposite. The act of writing is what I love most, despite how hard and agonizing it can be. What I struggle the most with is everything that comes after a story is finished. The submissions, the contracts, the waiting, the reactions. My work tends to be highly polarizing and, at times, inflammatory, which is very different from my actual personality. Reconciling the opposing reactions I get as a person, and as a writer, is a challenge.    

SW: I feel similar to that with my poetry. There’s always a lot of anxiety for me at first when it goes out into the world, especially as it’s gotten more personal over the years. But lately, I’ve been reading (and fumbling through writing) some pretty weird, surreal stuff, especially as I finish up my next collection The Apocalyptic Mannequin. How do you define surrealism? How does horror fit inside that definition?

For me, it’s horror that takes something non-threatening and adds a nightmarish quality to it that forces it to become disjointed, dreamlike. It uses a lot of bizarre imagery and weird associations. What immediately comes to mind are artists like: Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington (her art and her writing), Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), and a lot of David Lynch’s art/movies, specifically his short films and Eraserhead. I also think of The Nightmare On Elm Street movies because 1) it’s dealing with dreams/nightmares and 2) Kruger lives for those absurd moments when he turns a telephone into his mouth, tries to grab people through the wall, etc. Comedy and erotica also features heavily here and that leads me to think about how the id, ego, and superego works, particularly so when we’re unconscious and living out repressed desires in our dreams.



BK: I love all of those references. Especially Freddy Krueger sticking his tongue through the telephone. YES! I see surrealism as being the voice of the subconscious. As you mentioned, dreams are very surreal. The situation is often totally confusing and bizarre, and yet we know there’s a logic, however inexplicable, driving the experience.

Here’s waking logic: I’m afraid to speak in public so I’m going to spend extra time rehearsing my speech.

Here’s dream logic: I’m afraid to speak in public so my teeth will start falling out during dinner while meeting my new boyfriend’s parents for the first time.

There’s a style of writing called stream of consciousness. Surrealist fiction, to me, could be called stream of subconsciousness. It’s daydreaming from the same realm we visit at night, with its disjointed rhythm, bizarre scenarios, and hallucinogenic imagery. To that end, it often makes for effective nightmares.

Surrealism is strange and perplexing. It confounds the intellect, which is constantly striving to establish order. While surrealism is my favorite type of art, I find it to be the most frustrating and often dissatisfying at the time of consumption. After watching David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive for the first time, I wanted a refund, but that movie burrowed a wormhole into my brain like nothing that has followed. The story now resides in some subterranean part of my mind where my subconscious is still puzzling over it, and I find that effect very compelling.   

SW: I really love your examples of dream logic vs waking logic. It reminds me a lot of the mental hulahoops that I have to do when I’m reading stuff like Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis or William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. What will absurdist literature fans see that’s familiar and how then how did you challenge them?



BK: The inspiration for the surreal aspects of this book were derived more from film, art, and even music than from literature. The narrative style of David Lynch was a big influence. As you mentioned before, so were the otherworldly images of Salvador Dahli. Also the abstract lyrics and live performances of David Byrne. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland was certainly influential from a literary standpoint, as was Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That harrowing boat ride through the tunnel:

“There's no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There's no knowing where we're rowing
Or which way the river's flowing…”

I think there is an impulse in surrealist art to create something that has never been seen before, therefore it repels impersonation. Or, at least, attempts to. It’s like going to sleep desiring last night’s dream; you’re never going to get it.

Executing a work of surrealism, and to what effect is subjective, requires implicit trust in one’s subconscious imagination, and the silencing/gagging of one’s editorial critic.

I saw an interview with David Lynch once where he was complaining to a producer of the third season of Twin Peaks that they were too rushed for time, which didn’t allow enough time to “dream.” He didn’t say “brainstorm” or “improvise,” he was very deliberate in using the word “dream,” which is an inherently subconscious function, different, I believe, from basic creativity.  

SW: It took me a long time to get into David Lynch, but I would definitely call myself a fan now, without doubt. A couple summers ago, in fact, I saw a great documentary on him titled The Art Life and it really hit me hard as an artist. Same thing with his book Catching the Big Fist: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. I also picked up his bio Room to Dream last year, and I’m really looking forward to checking it out because I love seeing his thoughts on art and film and how the two intersect, which speaking of, how does surreal horror literature differ from art and film for you?



BK: Good question. I’m not quite sure, actually. I’m not nearly as versed in surreal horror literature as I’d like to be. I imagine much of the contemporary work is being classified as “bizarro,” but I don’t know that for sure. I’d love some recommendations of modern works of surreal horror to read if you can think of any.

SW: I’d recommend reading The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington. They are WILD. Her short story “The Debutante” is a great place to start--one of my favorites and there is such beautiful depth to that piece). Japanese writer Kobo Abe is another good writer for this. I read Kangaroo Notebook a few years ago and it felt like someone dipped my brain in acid and then bandaged it up with cotton candy.

BK: While surrealism has an identifiable aesthetic, it is, in my opinion, more about the feelings it evokes than what it looks like. So that’s what I went for when approaching the more surreal elements in Will Haunt You. I experimented with pacing, tone, sentence structure, text, and imagery in an attempt to evoke that same feeling of obscure discomfort I get when experiencing something surreal.

I think much of it comes down to subverting expectations and eliminating reference points so that the reader/viewer feels somewhat abandoned and unmoored. Which is tricky, because the aim is not confusion for confusion’s sake, but to produce a premonitory fear from feeling out of one’s natural element. What is even trickier is trying to confuse one’s senses in a way that’s entertaining. I could see a book with a page ripped in half during a crucial scene as producing the effects one gets from surrealism. But the seller would be mobbed with people returning the book and demanding a refund.

David Lynch (sorry, I know I keep going back to him, but he’s the master) once said that one of the scariest images he can imagine is a wobbly car tire that’s rolling in a circle about to topple over but never does. He spent several minutes in the infamous eighth episode of the return to Twin Peaks showing a long, continuous explosion. It was boring and riveting at the same time.

I think writing something surreal--using nothing more than typed letters on paper--might be trickier than producing something more visually driven, but I don’t have evidence to back that up.

What do you think?

SW: This is tricky for me, too, and I guess the first thing that comes to mind for me is that with film, you can show a string of images—related or not—and pair them with music and that will let you tell a visceral story in and of itself. With writing, it’s a little bit different because you have to create those visuals and sound spaces with words…which doesn’t always have the same effect, especially because everyone will be interpreting them differently. Film, at the very least, projects the same picture for everyone to start with, even if they end up in different places.



Speaking of where readers/viewers end up, your book is titled Will Haunt You and the initial page starts with a warning: “I read a book much like the one you’re holding now. And this is what happened to me. Don’t make the same mistake. Please, put it down. Or better yet, throw it away. This is your last warning. Turn the page, and you’re on your own. Actually, that’s not true. Turn the page and he’ll be there, watching you.”

What I like about this, and the promo material that you did for the book is that you’re directly calling out the reader, making the horror more personal and the tension more...well intense. How does this POV shift feed into the central conflict of the book and how is this individualized horror, this curse, working within the confines of surrealism?

BK: Well, I can’t get too deep into that without revealing spoilers. What I can say is that the urban legends that scare me the most are the ones where there’s an explicit threat on my own well-being. It’s one thing to know that Slenderman is out there, showing up in other people’s pictures. It’s another thing to face a mirror in a dark room and attempt to conjure Bloody Mary. I’m the one standing there ignoring the warnings. I’m the victim if something goes wrong.

SW: YES! Ah, I can remember being in elementary school and walking into the bathroom at recess, and right before I came out of the stall, a group of girls came in and turned off the lights and started chanting “Bloody Mary.” I remember sitting on the toilet and thinking “what a bunch of idiots” and closing my eyes, ha.

BK: I also think talking directly to the reader is largely discouraged in writing guidelines, as it’s guaranteed to turn some people off. It has the potential to pull some readers out of the story by making them feel too self-aware. It works on me, though. The degree to which it works, I think, depends on how willing one is to suspend disbelief, and, in the case of Will Haunt You, how susceptible one is to feelings of superstitious dread. Maybe it’s due to my OCD, but I’m naturally superstitious, and therefore vulnerable to superstitious fears. I don’t like breaking mirrors or stepping on cracks. There’s no way in hell you’d ever get me to interact with a Ouija board. In many ways, this book was an exercise in me exploring all of my gravest superstitions in an attempt to frighten myself. There are things I did while writing this book that I will never do again.

SW: I think that’s really brave. I try to do that a lot with my poetry and I know it’s not easy. This book got inside me in weird ways, so I can’t imagine what it did to you while you were writing it!

Probably my favorite (and most memorable) scene starts on page 43 when Jesse starts going through the hallways and sees the wallpaper pattern, the unfinished window/recess, the trophy room, the fire, and then most notably, hears “The Story None of Us Should Ever Know.”

BK: Ha, mine too! As related by an anonymous female narrator to me while being cooked alive.
Definitely one of the more surreal sections in the book. It’s when you, as a reader, know you’re not in Kansas anymore. You know I actually wrote most of that section while at the StokerCon in Vegas where we met? The bad Vegas juju definitely helped fuel that nightmarish scene.

Vegas. Talk about surreal.  

SW: Ha! No way! That’s amazing. I spent some of that trip thinking I was lost in a velociraptor forest, and I mean, you know something is working when you’re mistaking flamingos for dinosaurs. Time to cue Hunter S. Thompson: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.”

BK: Ha, I love it! And thank you for hosting this discussion. I’m very glad we’re friends.  



SW: Oh, it’s always my pleasure, and I’m beyond thrilled to have this discussion and forever support you and your art. Having said that, I gotta’ ask! What’s next in store for your readers?

The very next thing is a story titled “Chisel and Stone,” which is being published in an anthology called The Seven Deadliest, where seven authors each tackle one of the seven deadly sins. My story explores Envy. And then the 2nd edition of my debut novel, We Are Monsters, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, is being released through my current publisher, Flame Tree Press. Aside from that, I have two completed novels in various stages of development--one of which will almost certainly come out next year--and am presently collaborating on an exciting new novel with my friend, and fellow author, John F.D. Taff.

SW: Consider all of the above added to my TBR pile. I also need to get my copy of We Are Monsters signed (hopefully at StokerCon if I remember to bring it). And last but not least, for all the aspiring horror writers out there, what advice do you have for writers working in fiction?

BK: Write what scares you most and strive to expand your comfort zone. Also, try and focus more on the work itself than whatever might result from it. Let writing be the reward.

About the Book:

You don't read the book. It reads you.
 
Rumors of a deadly book have been floating around the dark corners of the deep web. A disturbing tale about a mysterious figure who preys on those who read the book and subjects them to a world of personalized terror.
 
Jesse Wheeler―former guitarist of the heavy metal group The Rising Dead―was quick to discount the ominous folklore associated with the book. It takes more than some urban legend to frighten him. Hell, reality is scary enough. Seven years ago his greatest responsibility was the nightly guitar solo. Then one night when Jesse was blackout drunk, he accidentally injured his son, leaving him permanently disabled. Dreams of being a rock star died when he destroyed his son's future. Now he cuts radio jingles and fights to stay clean.
 
But Jesse is wrong. The legend is real―and tonight he will become the protagonist in an elaborate scheme specifically tailored to prey on his fears and resurrect the ghosts from his past. Jesse is not the only one in danger, however. By reading the book, you have volunteered to participate in the author's deadly game, with every page drawing you closer to your own personalized nightmare. The real horror doesn't begin until you reach the end.
 
That's when the evil comes for you.

How to Order:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Will-Haunt-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-ebook/dp/B07PGQF8K2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1556911601&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/will-haunt-you-brian-kirk/1129683656?ean=9781787581364

Book Blurbs:

“A genuinely weird and powerful vision, Will Haunt You delivers on its titular boast, in spades.” –Gemma Files, author of Experimental Film

“Rest assured, this is no breezy melody. It’s a dark arrangement, a terror chorus. It will sink into your bones and shake you.” –Rio Youers, author of The Forgotten Girl and Halcyon

“An example of psychological horror at its best. Open this book carefully. It might be the last thing you do.” –Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Brothel

Monday, May 6, 2019

StokerCon 2019 Schedule


Hi Everyone,

I’m so excited to be heading out to Grand Rapids, MI for StokerCon this year, and even more excited that I get to be a Guest of Honor. It’s still hard to believe and I feel like I have to pinch myself every so often to make sure this is real, especially when I’m celebrating next to talent such as Josh Malerman, Kathe Koja, Kaaron Warren, and Robert McCammon.

As such, I wanted to put together a list of panels that I’ll be speaking on so please be sure to stop by and say hello!



Friday, May 10
1-2:00 Out There in the Dark: Horror—The Original Literature
Moderator: Kevin Wetmore Jr.
Speakers: Kathe Koja, Josh Malerman, Robert R. McCammon, Kaaron Warren, and myself.

3:30-5:00 Librarians Day—Small Publishers, Big Voices
Speakers: Gwendolyn Kiste, Jennifer Barnes, Lesley Connor, Don D’Auria, Christopher C. Payne, Jonathan Lanz, Erik T. Johnson, Josh Malerman, and myself.

Saturday, May 11
9-10:30 Inclusiveness in the Horror Genre: Are We Doing Enough?
Moderator: Linda D. Addison
Speakers: Gabino Iglesias, Norman Prentiss, John Lawson, Kaaron Warren, and myself

1-2:00 Reading Block
Readers: David Cowen and myself.
(FYI: I’ll be reading from my upcoming poetry collection The Apocalyptic Mannequin and well as an excerpt from my novelette The Dangers of Surviving a Slit Throat, which I’m hoping to get out later this fall)

3-4:00 When Your Life Becomes the Horror Story: Writing Through Personal Tragedy
Moderator: Krystal Hammond
Spekaers: Mary Turzillo, Brian Keene, Cynthia Pelayo, and myself

4-5:00 100 Years of Horror Movies: The Legacy of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Moderator: Nicholas Diak
Speakers: Andy Davidson, Amanda Trujillo, John Skipp, Jonathan Lees, and myself

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE VOLUME 6 OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS

Hello and Good Morning, Folks: 

As most of you know, April is #NationalPoetry Month, and the Horror Writers Association (HWA) is opening  submissions for the sixth installment of the HWA Poetry Showcase. The showcase will open on April 1st and run until April 30th, and is open for HWA members only. 

Submit here.

Note: I will be editing this year’s anthology alongside judges Cynthia Pelayo and Christa Carmen. All types of poetry are welcome and encouraged, as well as all types of horror, although poems that elicit themes of child abuse/pedophilia, racism, homophobia, or transphobia will be immediately dismissed.

So let's meet the judges!


Christa Carmen’s work has been featured in Fireside Fiction, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, and Tales to Terrify, among other publications. Her collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, is available now from Unnerving, and won the 2018 Indie Horror Book Award for Best Debut Collection. You can find her online at www.christacarmen.com.

For me, Christa's work provides a fresh, new voice to the genre, and we got to work together a year or so ago on some of the stories in her debut collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked. which I highly recommend reading, especially around Halloween. She's also an essayist who writes with a strong feminist voice, and she is currently one of my favorite final girls working in the genre today. I'm thrilled to be working together again, and I'm looking forward to the insight she'll bring to poetry, storytelling, and aesthetic. 

If you'd like to read more about Christa, you can check out the interview I did with her last year about her debut collection here.

Cynthia (Cina) Pelayo is the author of LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, THE MISSING, and POEMS OF MY NIGHT. She is an International Latino Book Award winning author, and an Elgin Award nominee. She is represented by Amy Brewer at Metamorphosis Literary.

Cina and I have known each other for a couple years now, and despite only getting to meet face-to-face once (but over excellent pizza and lots of laughs!), we've remained close, avid supporters of each other and our work. I was lucky enough to pick up her poetry collection Poems of My Night, and work with her in an editorial context  for Raw Dog Screaming Press, and to date, it's one of my favorite poetry collections in the genre. Cina is a fierce writer, a strong woman, and an academic through and through, and her work is both evocative, personal, and surreal, not to mention at times a little witchy, which Christ knows I'm all about. I'm looking forward to the conversations to come, and cheers to another adventure together. We'll both be at StokerCon this May, so expect lots of laughs, poetry, and more kick-ass girl power to come.

If you'd like to read more about Cina, you can check out the interview I did with her about her poetry collection, Poems of My Night here.

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. 

Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich at www.stephaniemwytovich.com and on twitter @SWytovich.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

CAN'T FIGHT THE MOONLIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH MAX BOOTH III

Hello, Hello, and Welcome to Werewolf Wednesday!

Today in the Madhouse, I'm chatting with Max Booth III about his most recent novel, Carnivorous Lunar Activities. If you haven't picked up this fabulous werewolf romp yet, I can't recommend it enough; in fact, you can read my review of it here.

Now, I don't know about you guys and gals, but when it comes down to monsters, werewolves are some of my favorite creatures to explore. Because they're driven by their ids, they're forever looking to lash out, find food, and just burn off some anger, and as a result of that, we get to see some beautifully grotesque violence juxtaposed against an equally intense transformation scene, and when it comes down to it, that's really the heart and soul of the werewolf arc: the cycle. I won't beat you over the head with Jung here, but there's a lot to be said about how werewolf stories are dealing with our shadow selves, the darker sides of our personality that we choose to keep repressed, hidden, and Max and I will talk about that a bit more later on, but before we dive in, go ahead and follow him on Twitter @givemeyourteeth and on his website at: TalesFromTheBooth.com. 

Plus, if you're looking for some other killer werewolf stories, I'd recommend picking up the following:


With silver bullets and a torn throat, 
Stephanie M. Wytovich 


Carnivorous Lunar Activities is an action-packed and dark comedic werewolf novel that was picked up by Fangoria. First off, congratulations—that’s wonderful! What gave you the idea for the book, and what does it represent to you at its most literal and figurative heights?

Thank you so much! The idea from the book came from wanting to challenge myself into writing a single-location novel. I love films with limited settings (Rope, Resolution, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, etc) and wanted to the same kinda set-up with my own take. Very early on an image formed of a man handing his best friend a handgun and asking him to shoot him. The rest of the plot simply unfolded from that initial idea. Why would he want to be shot? Well, maybe he’s a werewolf. How did he become a werewolf? Eventually these questions and answers formed a full-length book.

I didn’t set out to write a novel about friendship, but somehow that’s exactly what happened. My two main characters, Justin and Ted, they grew up together but drifted apart in their late 20s. I feel like that does something to you. To lose touch with your childhood BFF and, after a couple years, to suddenly be forced back into an intense situation with them. One second they might seem like a complete alien to you, then another second passes and it’s like you’ve never stopped hanging out. Friendship is weird, and I explored it to hell and back in this book. It was never my intention, but I guess I rarely intend anything when I write. Shit just happens and I go with it. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. I think, in this case, it works. I hope so, at least!



I think it’s safe to say that most horror fans great up reading Fangoria. What is your first memory attached to the magazine? Why were you drawn to it in the first place as a reader, and then later as a writer?

Once in a while, if I hunted deep enough, I’d find a stray issue of Fangoria hidden in my local grocery store. Usually I had to climb behind several stacks of gun and celebrity magazines, and then there it’d be: a glorious, disgusting cover advertising everything I loved in life. I can’t remember a time when I did not adore horror. For there to be a publication specifically geared toward the genre? I couldn’t imagine anything cooler, and I still can’t. For that name to be slapped on the cover of one of my books, it’s insane. I can’t believe I’m working with this company and I don’t think there will come a time when it truly sets in. I want to be involved with Fangoria for the rest of my life.

Ted and Justin are the main characters in this book, and they have a rapport with each other that only long-time friends do. How do you go about building their characters and their relationship to one another?

Ted and Justin are very similar to the kind of people I’ve known my entire life. Their chemistry together didn’t immediately click, but that’s the joy of having the freedom to do multiple drafts on a project. With this book in particular, I wrote the first draft as dialogue only, then went back on future drafts to add regular prose. Each new draft also saw me tweaking and rewriting the dialogue. Eventually, each character’s individual voice found each other. Justin is the sort of person who has never grown up. He’s still living in his parents’ house, he doesn’t have a job, he thinks dogfighting is “cool.” He’s a classic fuckup. Ted, on the other hand, he’s tried to embrace adulthood. He likes to believe he’s better than Justin. But as the book progresses, we start to learn that maybe Ted and Justin aren’t so different after all, and maaaybe it’s more difficult to escape your home town than one might think.



When readers pick up a werewolf novel, the expectation of violence is high. I’ve found that this is always a fine line to walk for some readers, not to mention a tricky balance for writers to achieve. How do you approach writing violence in your works, and are there any lines or subject that you won’t cross or write about? Is there such thing as too much gore?’

I highly dislike the term “gore for gore’s sake” being used negatively, which I tend to notice in a lot of horror movie reviews. I love gore. I love violence. In my fiction, at least. Handled a certain way, violence can be its own form of poetry. I can’t think of any certain topic or theme I can say for sure that I’ll never cross. If it interests me in some way or another, something I feel compelled to explore with my characters, then I’ll probably dip my toes in and see how the water’s feeling. I’m okay with making myself and also my readers uncomfortable. It’s never my goal, but it’s not something I’m trying to avoid, either. If it needs to happen, then it’ll happen.

Something that I really loved in this book is how comedy works alongside the horror. Can you speak a little to your approach here as a writer? What do you think the comedy adds to the story?

Horror works best in the short form. Short stories and novellas are the ideal length for this genre. With something that’s novel-length, I feel it doesn’t work too well without a little bit of humor added in. Personally, I don’t want to subject readers to a 60,000-word bummer. I want to keep them entertained. I want to make them laugh. Comedy and horror are perfect partners. The key is to knock your reader off their guard with laughter—then, when you hit them with the horror, it’s going to be so much stronger. Come at them when they’re least suspecting it.

Why write a book about werewolves? What about that particular breed of monster do you like the best, and what part of creating the story was the most fun for you?

I love how werewolves can be a metaphor for alcoholism. Often, in a werewolf story, the werewolf blacks out, then transforms and causes a bunch of damage. The next morning, the person wakes up as a human again and has to deal with the consequences of whatever shit they got into the night before. A lot of this is similar to that of the alcoholic. I’m also a big fan of how chaotic werewolves are. The concept of releasing one of these maniacs out in the middle of a suburban neighborhood makes my heart race. Werewolves have no self-control. They just want to feast and destroy. I love it! As for what was the most fun, I’d definitely have to say the format. I love writing dialogue, and in this book the dialogue truly shines.



I never tired of a good werewolf movie, and thankfully, there seems to be an almost endless tap of films out there to satiate the hunger: The Howling, The Wolfman, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Trick ‘r Treat, Gingersnaps, Silver Bullet, Blood and Chocolate, An American Werewolf in London, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Company of Wolves, and the list goes on and on. What’s your favorite werewolf movie, and why?

My favorite would be Ginger Snaps, probably. I only saw it for the first time a couple years ago, but I love that little movie. The two sisters are great leads, and the way they try to care for each other is truly touching. I love my stories to be personal, and it doesn’t get more personal than Ginger Snaps.

What is next in store for your readers?

I’m currently writing a monthly serial for my Patreon called The Geezer. It’s a Christmas horror thing about five siblings who maaaybe kill Santa Claus? I’m also shopping around a new horror novel to various agents and small presses, but there’s no point in really saying much about that at this point.

What books are currently sitting in your TBR pile?

I am currently reading The Bone Weaver’s Orchard by Sarah Read and Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. After this, I plan on tackling Hard Hearts by Mike McCrary and probably Pet Sematary by Stephen King for an upcoming episode of my podcast, Castle Rock Radio.

What advice do you have for writers working in the horror genre?

Never settle for your first idea. Keep digging until you can make it something nobody else but yourself could possibly write.

BIO:

Raised in Northern Indiana on an unhealthy diet of horror movies and Christopher Pike paperbacks, Max Booth III now lives in San Antonio, TX where he is constantly trying not to get shot. It is harder than you think. He is the author of several novels, including Carnivorous Lunar Activities, which was published in early 2019 as an original Fangoria Presents! paperback. His non-fiction has been published on websites such as LitReactor.com and CrimeReads.com. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, the book reviewer for the San Antonio Current, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio: A Stephen King Podcast. Visit his website TalesFromTheBooth.com to learn more and follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Ted and Justin were once best friends, but over the years they’ve seen less and less of each other. Now, something’s wrong with Justin. He can’t sleep, he can’t think straight, and he certainly can’t explain why he keeps waking up naked and covered in blood. Ted might be the only person who can save him-- assuming he’s okay with shooting his childhood BFF with a silver bullet. But that’s what friends are for, right?
From Max Booth III and FANGORIA comes Carnivorous Lunar Activities― the ultimate werewolf bromance. It’s a toxic cocktail of An American Werewolf in London, Old School, and Bubba Ho-Tep that dives deep into the well of childhood nostalgia, blood soaked horror, and irredeemable dick jokes to bring readers a slice of Southern Fried horror that proudly wears its heart―not to mention a few other internal organs―on its sleeve.

How to order:

Your Local Indie Bookstore: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781946487131



BLURBS FOR THE BOOK:

"Booth’s book is a breakthrough, from the conceit to the delivery. It’s funny but mean, smart but smartass, and it just might be your favorite werewolf story in the world. Carnivorous Lunar Activities starts out like a play, Grand Guignol, a couple of very compelling characters locked in a helluva conversation, before transforming into a blood-bright explosion of horror joy. Fucked up love, fucked up friendship, and how maybe you shouldn’t live past the best night of your life. Oh, how I loved this book." —Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box

“This book is a fucking blood-thirsty joy and if it’s not made into a movie in the next couple of years, I’ll eat my hat. Luckily, I don’t own any hats, but you get the idea. It’s about two friends. One happens to be chained to an anchor in his own basement – yes, an anchor – and he’s a werewolf. The other guy has got a whole other set of problems. There’s another Max walking around out there with the last name, but Max Booth is the literary inheritor of John Landis’s mantle and Carnivorous Lunar Activities could be the sequel to the comic-tragedy of An American Werewolf in London. This werewolf romp is a howling good time. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)”
—John Hornor Jacobs, author of A Lush and Seething Hell

“Carnivorous Lunar Activities is laugh-out-loud funny with dialogue that’ll make even the most seasoned writers jealous. Joe R. Lansdale meets An American Werewolf in London with a splash of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Carnivorous Lunar Activities is a must for all horror fans.”
—Michael David Wilson, This is Horror Founder