Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I DIG A HOLE IN DANGER SLATER'S BRAIN


Good Morning, Friends:

Today in the madhouse, we're discussing Danger Slater's latest book, He Digs a Hole, published by Fungasm Press. I first read Slater's work last year when I picked up a copy of his book, Puppet Skin, and what I love about his writing is that it throws you into this surrealist nightmare of sorts and it's hard to predict where you're going to end up. He Digs a Hole is no different, and it's full of bugs, dirt, and mutilation...so you know it's right up my alley.

"Get a job. Get married. Buy a house. Cut off your hands and replace them with gardening tools. Dig a hole. Can you hear the worms calling? Keep digging."

This book specifically reminded me of Naked Lunch meets The Twilight Zone, and Slater makes some interesting choices as he works with breaking the fourth wall throughout the story. His characters are bold and stubborn, each one dealing with this own obsessions and definitions of self-worth, and I appreciated the reward for blunt behavior that we see throughout the story. 

Below, Danger and I chat about the book and I grill him on some of my favorite parts of the story. I hope you'll enjoy the conversation, and that when you're done, you'll go and pick up a copy of his book for yourself. Or your friends. Or your worm brethern. Whichever.

Happy Reading!
Stephanie M. Wytovich 

Tell us about your book. What gave you the idea to create this world, and in your opinion, what does it represent at its most literal and figurative heights?

Well, the book is about a dude who wakes up one night and decides to cut off his hands and replace them with gardening tools, which he then uses to obsessively dig an impossibly deep hole in his own backyard, eventually pulling everyone and everything he knows down with him. In the most literal sense, it’s a story about self-mutilation and middle-aged suburban ennui. Figuratively, it’s a little more nebulous, as the hole exists to represent whatever insane or difficult (and ultimately futile) endeavor one decides to devote all their time to.

What was your favorite part of the story to create and explore, and then to play devil’s advocate, what was the hardest for you? Did you find any of it cathartic to write about, and if so, in what way?

I love intros. The first few chapters/pages. When I get an idea and start to write, it’s those first few pages that determine the tone of everything that follows and it’s really fulfilling to figure out my voice as I start a piece. Adversely, the hardest part is usually the turn at the end of the second act – the scenes that are the emotional lynchpin on which the entire ending hinges. It just takes a lot of work and concentration to make sure everything before it informs that moment, and it carries through towards the payoff at the end.


Tabitha’s character reminded me of the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper due to her obsession about the color of the bedroom wall. I’m curious, were you influenced at all by the story? If not, what gave you the idea to have her obsess over this, and was this her version of chopping off her hands and replacing them with a shovel?

It wasn’t my intention to mirror The Yellow Wallpaper, but it just kind of happens, especially in a story about domestic unrest. It’s almost impossible to separate yourself from the things that influence you, so it’s only natural that all your inspiration finds ways to leak in through the cracks in your own work.

I really dug (ha, see what I did there?) the bug theme/ underground that you had going on in the book, and it often made me think of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch. What stories, movies, artwork, etc. helped inspire and feed this story?

It’s so hard to say. Like I said in response to the last question, everything kinda just goes in the blender, and then it comes out however it comes out. I usually start with a weird premise – in this case, what if you dug an impossibly deep hole – and then I try to take that idea and explore every edge of it, both literally and metaphorically, before taking it to its most extreme and absurd conclusion.


I like the surrealist vibe that this book had, and the cover art fits the story beautifully. It has me wondering who some of your favorite artists are? Does artwork ever play a part in your creative process?

The cover artist (Katie McCann, IG: beetleblossom) is one of my favorite collage artists of all-time and it’s pretty amazing that I’ve gotten to work with her on my last three book covers. There’s something almost symbiotic about her art and my stories. I like to think they help elevate each other. Beyond that, I have Edvard Munch’s The Scream tattooed on my forearm, because it’s my favorite painting ever.


The other aspect of the book that I enjoyed was that you oftentimes broke the fourth wall. What gave you the idea to do this, and what did this conscious decision mean for your story?

Well, I was reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut while I was writing this, and he often inserts himself both as the author and as a character into his narratives, but more than that, the book has a lot to do with my relationship with art and the creation of it, and I wanted to challenge the audience by making them care about what was happening in the story plot wise while constantly pulling the rug out from under them by popping up and being like “ you know this is all fake, right?”

If you had to spend eternity constantly changing the color of your bedroom walls, or forever digging a hole, which would you pick and why?

Ummmmmmm…..probably the hole. You keep repainting a room, and it’s still just a boring old room. If you dig a hole, you might find a treasure! Plus, eternity is a long time. At someone point you’d dig all the way through the earth and just fall out the other end, right?

Usually when I write, I drink coffee, sometimes wine if I’m feeling crazy, and on occasion, I’ll reward myself with M&Ms after a certain word count. Do you prefer coffee, tea, or booze when you write? Are there any rewards you give yourself as your move along in the drafting stage?

No booze when writing, only coffee. Lots of it. And I don’t really reward myself with anything special. I write first thing when I wake up in the morning, and usually burn out after 3-4 hours. Then I’ll read and take a nap, then either go into work or hang out with girlfriends/friends.


What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

I read 2-3 books a week, so that’s constantly changing. I’ll tell you some of the books I’m most looking forward to in 2018 are Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman, Stacking Doll by Carlton Mellick III, and Earthquakes in Candy Land by Jennifer Robin.

What is next in store for your readers?
 
Almost done with a new book (another one, can ya believe it?) IN FACT, the next book will take place in the same cul-de-sac as the He Digs a Hole, with a lot of crossover characters (though I’ve decided they are not sequels since there’s no direct continuity between the two books, sorta like how Vonnegut would repurpose characters in his novels without worrying about their timelines/histories carrying over). Beyond that my editor John Skipp (Fungasm Press) mentioned he wanted a short story collection from me, so I think I’m going to work on putting that together very soon.

BIO: Danger Slater is the world's most flammable writer! He is the Wonderland Award winning author of I Will Rot Without You, Puppet Skin, and He Digs A Hole! He likes exclamation points! He is your favorite writer! You love him!  
"Danger Slater is fearless and should be ashamed of himself. Thank God he's not." -- JOSH MALERMAN, author of Bird Box

"If Richard Brautigan and William S. Burroughs had a baby it would be Danger Slater" -- THE HORROR REVIEW

"Bizarro horror at its best."  -- SPLATTERPUNK ZINE