Author: Jason Ivey

Misery Loves Company: Books Written by Horror Film Actors/Directors

Most us are known for one thing that we do well, but often we conceal another hidden talent. This is equally true for our entertainers as well. Who would knew that the bogeymen and scream queens from our favorite horror films would be the same folk that could offer us spiritual advice or how to make deviled eggs? In this series of articles I will be focusing on the books written by a few of the actors, directors, and others that work behind the scenes of our favorite horror films.

So, without further delay, let’s shine a light on the hidden talents of a few of these unexpected authors.

Jamie Lee Curtis

Was that the boogeyman? – Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) Halloween (1978)

Starting out this list of horror actors-turned-authors is one of the most well-known scream queens of horror cinema, Mrs. Jamie Lee Curtis. Best known for her recurring role as Laurie Strode in the Halloween film franchise, Mrs. Curtis is also a prolific writer of children’s books.

Among her many titles are: Big Words For Little People, My Brave Year of Firsts, Where Do Balloons Go?, and, Is There Really a Human Race?. Each of these books aims to teach important life lessons for young people in a variety of subjects that are relevant to children. Jamie Lee’s award-winning stories have all been illustrated by Laura Cornell.

 

Donald Pleasence

Best known to horror fans as Dr. Sam Loomis, the Van Helsing-like protagonist who was in constant pursuit of Michael Meyers/the Shape in the Halloween franchise, the balding actor known for his intense acting style and expressive blue eyes also wrote a children’s book called Scouse the Mouse. The book was later adapted into a popular children’s album which Mr. Pleasence wrote, directed, and also narrated. The Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr, provided both the vocals for the titular character and sung several of the albums songs.

John Carpenter

Finally, in keeping with the Halloween theme, we have the director himself. Besides directing such iconic horror films as the aforementioned Halloween, Carpenter also co-wrote/wrote the screenplays and helmed, Dark Star, The Fog, Ghosts of Mars, and They Live. John Carpenter is also a talented composer having written/performed the music for many of his own films.

Besides doing all of this, Carpenter has written several comic books/graphic novels. Among these have been the Big Trouble in Little China series, his self-titled John Carpenter’s Asylum and Tales For Halloween Night, plus The Escape From New York comic books. Most recently Mr. Carpenter was approached by DC to co-write a “Year of the Villain” tale featuring The Joker.  John Carpenter’s Storm Kings production studio also has a comic book imprint that his wife Susan King Carpenter presides over.

Join us again as we continue on with more actors, directors, and other fantasy/horror film icons who have written books.

Useful Links:

Jamie Lee Curtiss’ Amazon Page

Donald Pleasence’s Scouse the Mouse Children’s Album

John Carpenters bibliography

The Best of John Carpenter’s Movie Theme Songs

 

An Interview with Bitterwood and Dragon Apocalypse Author James Maxey

Jamex Maxey is a Phobos award-winning author (Nobody Gets the Girl) and 2015 Piedmont Laureate, who is best-known for his dragon novel series, The Bitterwood and Dragon Apocalypse sagas. Recently, Jason Ivey had the opportunity to interview Mr. Maxey on behalf of Horror Tree about his work and his other interests.

HORROR TREE:  Looking over your bibliography reveals a fascination with dragons. What would you say makes them so appealing to you?

JAMES MAXEY: There’s a sincere answer and a more cynical one. Both are about equally parts true. The sincere—if nerdy answer—is that I was a major D&D geek from my late teens through my mid-thirties. I moved around a lot during this time, and one of the first things I did when I moved to a new area was to find a gaming store and look for games to join. It was my primary path to having a social life.

Playing AD&D [Advanced Dungeons & Dragons], I sort of hooked on to dragons as the Alpha Monster. I mean, it’s right there in the title. Yeah, I might pit my players against undead lords and wicked queens and the occasional giant, but when it came right down to it my favorite campaigns always built up to a battle with a dragon. As a DM [Dungeon Master], you need to really get into the heads of the characters you’re responsible for. If I used a dragon, I had to really put some thought into its goals and motives and personalities. Accumulating treasure indicated some sort of economic system. The fact they could speak and collected books hinted that as a race they had some sort of culture. Fleshing out these big, scaly beings to give them motives and backstories led rather directly into using these beasts in novels. I’m not ashamed to admit that some of the dragons in my books made [their] first appearances in long ago D&D campaigns.

As for a more cynical answer, well, dragon books sell. I never write a book purely to make money. I really only work on projects I feel passionate about. But, since my dragon books have a wide readership, I get a lot more fan interaction. People ask questions about my worlds that I can’t immediately answer. So, I start pondering on, say, why there were no female sky-dragons or earth-dragons in the first Bitterwood novel, which was an actual reader question. That led to me thinking about the different reproductive strategies of the dragon races, and the fact that female sky-dragons live isolated from the males became a giant plot driver in Dragonforge, and will play an even bigger role in the upcoming Dragonsgate novel.

 

HT: Bitterwood (The Bitterwood saga) and Infidel (The Dragon Apocalypse saga) are the respective protagonists of their series. Besides gender, how else are they unique? Similar? Which of them seems like the ultimate dragon slayer, i.e. could survive in either of your dragon-universes?

JM: Avoiding specifics, one of these characters doesn’t survive the events of their series and the other does. So, technically, one character wins as the survivor by default.

Stepping back into a more loose interpretation of the question, Infidel would tear through the dragons from the Bitterwood novels without even mussing her hair. She goes head to head with elemental dragons the size of islands in her own adventures. The non-magical, big flying reptiles of the Bitterwood series would get pounded into paste unless they just asked her to please not hit them anymore. She’d probably stop and talk things over with them. She’s a very reasonable person.

Her capacity to make peace with her foes is one of the central differences between Infidel and Bitterwood. Bitterwood is mostly motivated by darkness. He kills dragons because he hates them. If one begged for mercy he’d kill it just a little slower to enjoy its whimpering. Except, ‘enjoy’ isn’t quite the right word. Bitterwood doesn’t have fun in his ongoing war with dragons. There’s a reason the word bitter is part of his name. He’s cold and occasionally—cruel. He kills without remorse. He’s a psychopath. Yet, his focus and skill make him a heroic figure to other humans. He’s defined by his enemies. Since his dark urges find release in the slaughter of dragons, humans think he’s fighting on their side, but he’s not. He’s just driven to kill dragons by his own personal demons. That said, if you’re a human during the dragon age, you probably sleep better thinking that Bitterwood is out there reducing the dragon population.

Infidel, on the other hand, very much enjoys fighting whoever and whatever, but not because she hates anyone. It’s a more childish feeling of triumphing over anyone bigger who stands in her way. She’s dangerous but not sadistic. She’s fallen in among violent men in a savage land and, due to her magical gifts, happens to be really good at putting bullies in their place. She’s carefree but reckless, protected from the consequences of her choices by her enchantments. She’s got a good heart, but due to her upbringing she’s a bit selfish and walled off emotionally. She really only has one friend, and she keeps her past a secret even from him. I think she doesn’t open up and grow as a character until she starts to open up to Aurora. Until then, though she’s well into adulthood, she’s basically crashing through life as a very powerful child.

While you didn’t ask the question, if it came down to a fight between Bitterwood and Infidel, even if she was at the peak of her magical strength and toughness, Bitterwood would still win. Infidel’s powers make her sloppy. Swords bounce off her skin, so she’s never learned to duck or dodge. Her primary sword skill is hacking, which she’s amazing at, but she relies entirely on brute strength. Bitterwood, on the other hand, plans, practices, and perfects his combat skills. Assuming Infidel didn’t take him by surprise and floor him on her first punch, he’d keep out of her reach until he figured out how to use her strength against her. It’s sort of a Batman versus Superman deal. Superman would rely on his powers, but Batman would rely on his training and strategy and win out in the end.

HT: Since you brought up Bitterwood vs. Infidel, I’m curious, who do you think would win in a battle between Smaug vs. Greatshadow (The fire dragon from Dragon Apocalypse)?

JM: You know I’d be rooting for Greatshadow. Greatshadow’s primary advantage would be that he’s not stuck in one body. Smaug might kill one of his avatar bodies, but unless he could track down and vanquish Greatshadow’s soul in the abstract realms, Greatshadow could just make more avatars and keep fighting. That said, if I were tasked to actually write that story, I’d probably go the Marvel route. They’d fight each other for a while, then team-up to go fight the real enemy who’d tricked them into fighting in the first place. Better give up that pipe, Gandolf. A single match is all Greatshadow needs to find you.

HT: Besides your dragon-themed novels, you also do superhero novels too. You have a really unique take on the superhero genre with your characters like: App; the world first open-source superhero who can download body hacks, Cut Up Girl, who can make exploding clones by cutting off her arms, and Nobody, an intangible spy whose life was literally erased by a time-machine accident.

HT: Would you mind telling us more about your unique take on this genre? Do you have aspirations of writing comic books?

JM: I won’t pretend that I’m not a HUGE comic book fan. And, sure, I sometimes think of a great story I could tell if I were writing Superman or Squirrel Girl. But, ultimately, I’m devoted to telling stories in prose rather than pictures. Novels are as close as humans get to telepathy. It’s a very intimate art form, but it obviously has limits. The reason a picture is worth a thousand words is because words can sometimes be just awful at their job. I might need five thousand words of writing to explain the same information you could get from watching a thirty second YouTube video. But, the discipline of fitting infinite content into a confined form is the central struggle of all art. Taking superheroes and translating them into a medium where they aren’t quite as dominant helps me create something new and fresh. It works the other way, too. Bill Sienkiewicz adapted Moby Dick into a graphic novel. P. Craig Russel adapted Salome. They take something familiar and show it in a fresh way. That’s my goal as well.

“Novels are as close as humans get to telepathy.”

— James Maxey

I’ve always had a love of obscure and absurd characters. If DC released a hundred dollar premium hardcover Matter Eater Lad graphic novel tomorrow morning, I’d be reading that sucker by lunch time. So, one of the connecting threads among my superhero books is that I like to focus on characters with crappy superpowers. Or, maybe they have a pretty decent superpower, but have some sort of personal or moral flaw that interferes with their heroes journey.

Big Ape in my Lawless novels is a good example. His power is that he’s a big ape. He’s got some anger management issues and a serious body odor problem. His love life is a mess. He’s got a girl friend whose power is cursing at people until their hair catches on fire, literally. And, of course, he’s covered in fur. But he’s also in love with his best friend Val, though he regards her as off-limits, and during the course of his adventures his faithfulness to Jenny, his actual girlfriend, is put to the test by yet a third woman and it’s not a test he does well on. Again and again Harry (Big Ape) makes terrible decisions. And at the core of his character there’s this existential loneliness. He’s half man, half ape created by a supervillain, and the only member of his particular hybrid species. He tells Val that he won’t die, he’ll go extinct. His never ending battle to find happiness in the midst of all the insanity that surrounds him is what makes him so compelling to write about.

HT: Do you have a favorite horror/fantasy story or author? Was there any specific one that sparked your interest to become a storyteller?

JM: This is a tough one. There are very few authors who I throw myself into entirely. When I was younger, I was a big fan of Piers Anthony, and later I grew to love Terry Pratchett. But, each has such massive catalogs that after a half dozen books or so I felt like I had to move on. My reading tastes are very eclectic. I like big, dense Russian novels, quick and quirky mysteries, hard SF, humor in the vein of Pat McManus, classic novels like Middlemarch [by George Eliot] or Jude the Obscure, westerns, ghost stories, histories, graphic novels… I’m just all over the board on fiction, and my non-fiction reading choices often leave my wife rolling her eyes. Seriously? I’m reading a book about oysters? Circus freaks? Dark matter? Bicycles? The history of fonts? Why does anyone read a history of fonts? I want to read everything, which leaves me weirdly disconnected from having a favorite genre or author. I love browsing used book stores and library book sales and stumbling across a book on a subject or of a genre I never even thought of. I’m a knowledge junky.

As for a book that sparked it all, when I was very young I used to read a series of boy’s science fiction books featuring a young hero named Danny Dunn. I think I can credit them for igniting my love of science fiction. The other book that really pushed me into becoming a fantasy author was, as implied in a previous answer, the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons DM’s Guide. It laid out the elements you needed to run a good campaign: the characters, settings, goals, and rewards. And, in retrospect, the practice of designing a D&D campaign has a lot of overlap with the skills you need to develop if you want to write novels.

The very first novel I ever wrote was actually a rather pretentious “literary” novel about a homeless man. It was terrible. One of my friends that I played D&D with just flat out asked why I didn’t try writing fantasy since I was so good at being a DM. And, I thought, hmmm. And thus, my life was forever changed.

HT:  If a new reader were being introduced to your work, do have a book/series that you would recommend? Do you have any book/series you would most like to be recognized for creating?

JM: This is another tough question. My supervillain novel Burn Baby Burn is a contender. I wrote the whole first draft in a week, the book just flowing out of me seamlessly, and I still love every word of it. But, it is a story about supervillains who do some terrible things, and it has fairly explicit violence, language, and sexual content, so it’s not for everyone. If I had to pick just a single book with the broadest appeal, Greatshadow is probably the best introduction to my work. It’s got a blend of both dragons and superheroes, just plain bonkers fight scenes, and a lot of humor and a lot of heart. If you like it, you’ll probably find something to like in just about anything I’ve published.

HT: What are some of your upcoming books/projects that readers can look forward to?

JM: I’ve just finished the third draft of a novel called Dragonsgate: Devils. It’s got dungeons and dragons and dinosaurs. It’s the nerdiest thing I’ve written to date, set in my Bitterwood universe, but launching a brand new trilogy.

I’m also writing a book about how to write books. I’ve written over twenty books, taught workshops, served for a year as a Piedmont Laureate lecturing on the art of writing. I’ve written more blog posts and essays on writing than I care to count. I originally intended just to collect my essays and release them as a book, but it felt disjointed. There was no overall masterplan. So I ditched that and am banging out a unified manuscript that provides the secrets to writing fiction and making money from it.

HT: That’s actually a good segue into my final question. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers that you care to offer? Perhaps something learned from dealing with publishers, or other aspects of the writing profession?

JM: Yes. Here’s the central premise of my writing book: Turning your daydreams into dollars isn’t hard. I mean, it’s not simple, but it’s certainly doable if you’ve got an imagination and a basic command of the language. The main physical requirement is a ton of time with your butt in a chair and your hands on a keyboard. I still can’t get over it! People pay me money for making stuff up! I spend my days thinking about dragons and superheroes and somehow this pays my light bill, puts a car in my driveway, a roof over my head, and provides health insu— okay, actually the fact that my wife has a good job provides the health insurance. I’ve found some real world limits on how far I can push this grift [gift?].
Still, if you want to make some money writing books, it’s easy to get lost in the thickets of plotting and publishing and promotion, easy to have your heart sink as you contemplate fourth and fifth and sixth drafts. You’ll tear your hair out as editors quit, and publishers fold, and ten thousand books a day flood Amazon leaving your newly released book washed away in the flood of titles. But it’s okay! Don’t lose sight of the big picture! Writing ain’t rocket surgery. Making money writing fiction really comes down to a tried and true formula:

Daydreaming + Typing = Profit!

It really is that easy. The only things about the process that are even a little, tiny, eensy bit difficult are (1.) The daydreaming, (2.) The typing, and (3.) making a profit. But I’ll explain how to get around these difficulties. It’s why I’m taking the time to write a book, instead of just selling a button that says: “Daydream, Type, Profit,” and calling it a day.

HT: Thanks James for taking the time to speak to Horror Tree!

Mr. Maxey’s  forthcoming novel Dragonsgate: Devils is set to be released in 2020. If you would like to know more about his work you can do so by visiting the following links below.

Dragonsgate: the Worlds of James Maxey: This Facebook group started by a fan is a good place to hear about James Maxey’s upcoming events and newest releases.

James Maxey Amazon Page: This is where you can find all of the author’s available titles to purchase.

James Maxey: This is the author’s official website where you can learn more about him.

Horror Tree Presents … An Interview with Bobby Crosby, co-creator of “Last Blood”

Editor’s Note: This interview was done a couple of years ago but never published. So, any references which seem dated can be attributed to that!

Bobby Crosby, along with his brother Chris Crosby and Illustrator Owen Gieni, are the creative minds behind the Vampires versus Zombie comic book “Last Blood.” The series premise is about a zombie outbreak that threatens to overtake the world, and vampires fearing the loss of their food source, decide to aid the humans against this mutual threat. The following interview with Bobby sheds light on the stories origins, the writer’s background, and other pertinent information.

 

JDI:  Would you mind explaining the story/concept behind ‘Last Blood’, some of its main characters, and/or anything else that you think would help to inform those of us who are unfamiliar with the series?

BC: After zombies take over the Earth, vampires must protect the last surviving humans so that they can live off of their blood. The central figure, the most important character, is someone who gets very little screen time, but everything that happens in the story is because of him, and that’s The First Zombie.

When a vampire fails to drink human blood for 65 years, which is an extremely painful process (hunger pains multiplied by a billion), they become a new creature, a zombie with the power to mentally control all the other zombies that spring from them. We find out that The First Zombie is trying to wipe out all human life on Earth and that the reason for that is to put all the vampires through the same 65 years of starvation torture that he just went through, for revenge against them for something they did to him.

JDI: With the multitude of zombie comics filling up so much space on comic shelves these days, what do you think sets yours apart from the rest, besides the obvious vampire angle?

BC: I’ve never read an entire issue of a zombie comic, so I can’t comment too much on that, but I have read descriptions of all of them and one major thing that sets “Last Blood” apart is an original concept, as you mentioned. Most zombie comics sound like most zombie movies — boring, unoriginal crap. “Last Blood” at least sounds interesting, and it’s the most popular horror comic online with a growing fan-base.

JDI: Is it true that you’re not a fan of zombie movies? If so, what made you want to do a graphic novel on the living dead? Was there anything you felt was lacking from zombie movies, or comics, that made you feel that you could offer a different perspective?

BC: I’ve only ever liked “Shaun of the Dead,” which was hilarious. The rest are mostly incredibly boring. I did a graphic novel of “Last Blood” because it will help with getting a film made. If I can’t sell the screenplay for the big bucks, I’m going to make the movie myself, and a comic book helps with both of those possibilities, especially if it’s already popular. It’s a lot easier to see the vision for the film when you can actually see it, as opposed to reading a bunch of text. And a successful comic book will help entice studios to purchase it, or a cast and crew to be involved if I make it myself.

JDI: Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself, such as your background in comics and anything else to help inform those of us who are unfamiliar with your work?

BC: I’m 26 years old and have spent most of my life in Southern California. My brother Chris and I started publishing comics when we were kids in the early ’90s. We had our first booth at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1994. I barely even remember the crap we put out back then. It was almost entirely my brother’s thing and I was just tagging along. I never liked comics — always wanted to make movies. I wrote and illustrated a comic of my own in 1993 when I was 12, which was part of our initial launch at Comicfest ’93 in Philadelphia, but it was short-lived and I did very little in comics for the next 13 years.

In August of ’06 I started writing a poker comic strip called “+EV,” which will hit the 200 strip mark this month (November). It’s the most popular poker comic online with about 5,000 daily readers. Then on Christmas Day of ’06 we ran the first page of “Last Blood,” a graphic novel which we’ll complete at a length of 112 pages in early December. It’s the most popular horror comic online with about 10,000 daily readers (rising rapidly). On Valentine’s Day of ’07 we launched “Marry Me,” a romantic comedy graphic novel about a pop star, frustrated with her love life, who goes insane and marries a random fan holding a MARRY ME sign at one of her concerts. I write it and Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar is the artist. It’s my most popular strip with about 12,000 daily readers.

JDI: As you mentioned before “Last Blood” was meant to visualize a screenplay that you and your brother Chris had co-created with one another. Would you mind sharing the story’s evolution from its origins, to where it is presently, to possibly the future of the series?

BC: My brother and I came up with the basic idea of “vampires protecting humans from zombies” in August of ’06, then I fleshed it out and came up with The First Zombie, among other things, and started writing the comic scripts in December of ’06 after hiring Owen. I’m rarely more than one page ahead with the writing and we put the pages up online as soon as they’re completed. I’ve known the vast majority of the story since before I wrote the first page, but of course many changes and additions have been made.

One major change to the ending only came a few months ago when I thought of a much cooler resolution. As far as the future goes, there’s a million different stories to tell in this universe, like the origin of The First Zombie and a more detailed look at exactly how he took over the world in that first month, and there can definitely be sequels as well. The first film/graphic novel has a specific ending and it’s certainly not a cliffhanger, but the story’s not over yet.

JDI: Do you, Chris, and Owen have any favorite character(s)? How about one that perhaps you sympathize more, or even less for?

BC: I think we’re all loving Rage right now. Grady, Mac and Murdo are other favorites. Devian’s cool too. And who doesn’t love Addison Payne? Jeez, I was recently thinking that all the characters suck and the story’s so boring, but I guess there are a couple decent ones. I sympathize the most with a character we haven’t met yet, who ends up being the hero of the entire story. I sympathize the least with The First Zombie.

JDI: Does any of the characters draw inspiration from yourself or your friends? If yes, how so?

BC: Well, Mac is named after my buddy Kevin “Mac” McDermott, an actor who has appeared on “Cheers,” “ER,” and many other hit shows. Owen was also instructed to make the character look like Mac, and of course Mac will play himself in the film if I end up directing it. That’s the only character who was inspired from anyone I know.

JDI: In casting the “Last Blood” as a film is there any “dream cast” or studio you’d like to do this with? If so, who?

BC: Well, my current #1 choice for Mattheson (pretty much the star of the film) is Henry Ian Cusick, who plays Desmond on “Lost.” Other than that, I just have a lot of fun choices, but no clear cut #1s, besides Mac.

JDI: Would you mind sharing with us the special partnership that you and the rest of your team have with www.wowio.com? How did you find out about this site and what are some of the benefits of it compared to the more traditional ways of comic book publishing?

BC: Nothing special about the partnership — I think they accept almost all book publishers. The only thing special, I guess, is that our books are dominating the top 10 list on the site, usually with five titles in the top 10, sometimes with the entire top 5. I don’t recall the first time I heard of WOWIO — we heard about it from many different sources and I wish we put our books on there sooner.

The benefits are that we get 50 cents per download per issue and all we have to do is submit the issues in an online PDF file. The only cost of it is optional advertising to drive up downloads. Much simpler than printing a lot of books when you’re often not certain they’ll be profitable.

JDI: For those interested in purchasing a copy of the Last Blood books what outlets can they find them at?

BC: Their local comic book shop, since the comic is distributed through Diamond, which most stores use. Ask for “Last Blood” from Blatant Comics. If they do not have a local comic book shop and/or if they badly want signed copies, they can order them from me on the site [www.blatantcomics.com].

JDI: Tyler [Mane] just happens to be an ex-wrestler, and although he isn’t short and stout like the character Rage, he could fit that part well.

BC: Rage doesn’t actually have to be short — he could go either way. Tyler’s great, but I don’t know if I’d want to draw the comparison even more to Sabertooth. He’d certainly be a strong choice, though, and that might work out well.

JDI: I appreciate your time in doing this interview and wish you the best with the future of this series.

BC: Thanks, buddy.

Links:

Last Blood Keenspot page

Bobby Crosby’s Comixology page

Marry Me IMDB page

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