Ruschelle: Stacy! It’s great to chat with a fellow Horror Tree Interviewer. I’ll be gentle, I promise. Unless I’m feeling feisty, then all bets are off! Here’s a good question…maybe…do you always have a solid idea of a story or book or does the story or book decide its course as it is being written?
Stacey – No, I don’t always have a solid idea when I start writing. Most of my works are inspired by music or something that I can’t let go of idea wise. I haven’t sat down and actually planned a novel in a long time, my characters are the driving force behind their stories, which is an adventure in and of itself. They definitely like to keep me on my toes.
Ruschelle: Looking at your catalogue of ever-expanding books penned, it seems you are a lover of the magical, fantasy and Arthurian times. What do you believe draws you to delve into those worlds?
Stacey – I am. I discovered fantasy quite late actually. It started with Kate Forsyth’s Dragonclaw, and from there I was hooked. The Arthurian Legends, was quite by accident, really. I’d always known my maternal grandmother was Welsh. She came to Australia (specifically WA) from Maesteg when she was three on board the SS Osterley… almost drowned, believe it or not… but it wasn’t until I watched the TV miniseries Merlin (with Sam Neil) that I fell in love with it. Reading The Mists of Avalon while delving into Wicca cemented my love affair with it.
Ruschelle: How many completed works do you have displayed on your bookshelf? This includes my favorite, the short stories gobbled up by anthologies.
Stacey – I have four. Five including the novella, Solstice, that I self-published back in 2013. There’s a few others sitting on my kindle. They’re the ones I didn’t have money to purchase in paperback at the time when they were printed. Sadly, several of the anthologies my short stories appear in, are out of print.
Ruschelle: Since I’ve been stalking you on Facebook, www.facebook.com/StaceyJaineMcIntosh, I’ve discovered you are in the process of writing Nightshade. Can you give us all a little nibble of what Nightshade is?
Stacey – Nightshade is… Book 6 of a nine-part YA Paranormal Romance series I’ve been writing for what feels like forever. It’s about Scarlett, a half-fey, half werewolf teenage girl who has been through hell and comes out the other side, rather scarred and extremely bitter. She doesn’t fit, in either the human world (because she’s not human, despite being raised to think she was) or the supernatural world (because she’s not just fey and she’s not just a werewolf, she’s both) and she fights against the injustice of it all.
Here’s the opening to Chapter One:
Evanthe is dead.
The words keep going around and around in my head, at such a dizzying speed I can’t concentrate.
I don’t hear the rest. I’m not sure if it’s out of pure shock or something else, but the entire throne room goes silent.
That is until Ash’s loud voice booms over the din, making me aware that this is indeed real and not some nightmare from which I would soon awaken from.
“I want everybody to clear the throne room. This meeting is over. Get out. Now!” I blink. Still in shock. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Ash shout this loud before.
Evanthe… how could she be dead? It wasn’t fair. She was the only person in the entire world who was like a sister to me. I’d known her almost my whole life. For her to be dead was unimaginable. How was I to process that? It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense.
Ruschelle: You are a Fey queen in your own right, having explored their mythos and creating your own. Tell us a bit about them and how they affect your works?
Stacey – I’ve always loved Queen Mab and Morgan Le Fay. The Morrighan came later. It doesn’t seem to matter who depicts them, they always possess an inner strength. They are, I find misunderstood and misrepresented. The internet is rife with information about Mab, Morgan and The Morrighan, often unable to tell one apart from the other. After a while of growing frustrated with the fact that they are often confused for one another, I decided to set about separating the threads that wove them together and create three very separate characters.
Queen Mab, the quintessential Faerie Queen. I think she’s most famous due to Shakespeare, but if you delve a little deeper, it appears she is modelled on the Irish Queen Medb (Maeve) said to have been the Warrior Queen of Connacht, and famous for having five husbands and seven sons all named Maine. My version differs a bit from the original.
Morgan le Fay, as most know if the daughter of Igraine and Gorlois, as well as the half sister to the legendary King Arthur. That’s about where the similarities end when it comes to various authors view points. Some say it was Morgause who slept with her brother and begat Mordred, other’s say it was Morgan herself. Personally, I think it was Morgan, as I favour Marion Zimmer Bradley’s take on the tale. My version is similar, with one difference, Morgan and Arthur are step siblings forced into marriage. Mordred is the end result of that marriage. Something Morgan tries to circumvent, but in the end, can’t. So, rather than cast the child from the womb before he is ready, she sends him to Mab to raise as her own.
And… The Morrighan, she is an Irish war Goddess, often said to be a trio of Goddesses actually. Comprised on Nemain, Badb and Macha. As well as being a shape shifter. The raven or crow is also associated with her. There is a lot more to her than that, but it would take pages to share it all. My version is very true to the original, I think. She has her own mind and she won’t always come when called, which is often true, I’ve found when working with her.
Ruschelle: Let’s play make-believe. If you could be a Faerie, tell us the kind of faerie you’d be?
Stacey – That’s an interesting question, because I haven’t actually thought about the kind I’d be. But I guess if I could be fey it would probably be something Welsh, the Tylwyth Teg, for instance. If only because Wales fascinates me. So does Cornwall actually. I often think if I could live anywhere else in the world, other than Australia it would be either Wales or Cornwall, because of the history and myth the two places are steeped in.
Ruschelle: Well, I’ve thought of it for you. You are a badass faerie who wields an axe and takes on fuzzy bunnies from Hell. These bunnies are building an army of small rodents, caterpillars and radishes to ultimately enslave faerie kind and make them their bitches! But you are the faeries warrior. You will rise up against their army and slay each bunny, rodent and radish that plot against the faerie world. Bwhahahahaha! Ehh…it sounded better in my head. Anywho… Rejection is a big part of the writer’s life. It sucks but it’s true. What do you do when something you have gestated, birthed and raised is rejected?
Stacey – Cry? No, I learnt long ago that my writing is not for everyone. But I do get frustrated and disappointed. It takes a day or two for me to shake off those feelings because I do believe the stories I write are worth sharing.
Ruschelle: What was your first foray into writing?
Stacey – My very first foray into writing was bad fanfiction, along with various short stories and a novel. I still have the novel and some of the short stories. The fan fiction is lost to ravages of floppy discs. Time was not kind to them.
Ruschelle: You have kids. FOUR! WOAH! How do you find the time to squeeze precious ‘mind blood’ (what the hell is that? just run with it), out of your fingers and onto the computer screen?
Stacey – Haha! Yes, I have four kids. Alexander, 12; Lilia, 10; Caleb, 9 and Quinn, 7. They can be a handful at times. And yes, I get that reaction a lot, particular when I elaborate and tell people that there is exactly 4 years and 8 months between my eldest son and my youngest son. My husband is forever trying to offload one or two of them to unknowing strangers as a joke. It’s hilarious watching people’s faces. I’d never trade a single one though. As for how I find the time, well, I have to steal it. Suffice to say, I get a lot done on my phone. I’d be lost without it.
Ruschelle: Do you think any of them will pick up the pen? Do you think you’ll ever collaborate with any of them on a project?
Stacey – I think my eldest son might. He actually did write a story in year 1. It’s a short fantasy story that escalates very quickly. I still have it. Illustrations and all. And I think it would be a lot of fun to collaborate, should any one of them want to follow in my footsteps and write.
Ruschelle: Have your children ever appeared in some way, shape or form in your works?
Stacey – My daughter appears in my short story Shadows of Annwyn. Shes the infant faerie who has her wings pulled out as payment to the Crone. She was so tiny when she was born, having been born twelve weeks early, and weighing only 2lbs1, that it seemed fitting to include her in what I was writing at the time. The boys haven’t, at least not in the same way Lilia has. I’ve had a few young male characters that are a blending of each one of my sons. The three of them are all so different, and yet, I can see the similarities, much to their annoyance. Their quirks have made for interesting fictional characters that I couldn’t just focus on just one child specifically, I had to combine them.
Ruschelle: Oh…I love that imagery. That’s a hell of a payment. It’s so creative. And this creativity has also inspired you to create mixed media; pendants, bookmarks, earrings etc. Do you get the same feeling crafting with your hands as you do crafting with your mind? By the way, they’re beautiful.
Stacey – I do actually. I’m working on my time management skills. There really isn’t enough time in the day to focus on everything I want to focus on.
Ruschelle: You have a love of Cartography and hold a diploma in Spatial Information Services. That is amazing. Has that assisted you in your writing?
Stacey – Not exactly. I got into it only because my parents wanted me to do something worthwhile after high school other than write. Writing was not a valid career choice in their eyes. Actually my mum suggested that I be a secretary… of all things. So, rather than put myself through that, I followed in my Dad’s footsteps, or tried too. Cartography seemed more fun than Surveying. My time spend on various mine sites, while educational, left me feeling home sick and while the lure of a hefty paycheck was tempting, I couldn’t stick it out. Of course I finished my Diploma around the same time I found out I was expecting my eldest, so I wasn’t able to really discover if I was cut out for a job in the industry somewhere besides a mine site. I don’t think I’d trade it though. Maps are fun to create, so there’s always the possibility of creating fantasy world maps for people that want them. Being spatially aware has definitely helped in creating the worlds I write in.
Ruschelle: You live in Western Australia, the land of all things that could kill and eat you. Has any of those “nasties” inspired any of your villains in your stories?
Stacey – Nope. Never been inspired by our wildlife or our creepy crawlies. In saying that though, Orb Weaver’s do make rather pretty webs. I still don’t think I could write about them. I’d have to get close to them, and after having a baby spider crawling on the back of my neck fairly recently… I don’t think so. Quokkas on the other hand, I might be tempted to include.
Ruschelle: If you could sit and talk with any monster (without them eating you) what would it be and what would you want to discuss?
Stacey – Any monster, hhmmm? Probably a Kelpie. A Scottish water horse. I love horses and this is one faerie that intrigues me. As for what I’d ask, well that’s simple. What’s the true story behind the Loch Ness Monster? Is it real, or is it just a mere fabrication? Some people say it could be a Kelpie, but I’m not so sure.
Ruschelle: What was your favorite and most influential book or story that put you on this writing journey?
Stacey – My favourite book would have to be Alice in Wonderland but the most influential would have to be The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmerman Bradley.
Ruschelle: Let’s go back to the ‘interviewing you.’ If you could interview one author for The Horror Tree who would it be? And you don’t have to say ME, I mean…I’d be flattered but you don’t have to. LOL
Stacey – Okay, so besides you… cause that’s a given. I’d have to say… probably a friend of mine, Zoey, or Juliet Marillier. Perth can seem very isolated at times, so when you find fellow writers, it’s kind of like hitting the jackpot. Especially if they’ve made it as an author, like Juliet has.
Ruschelle: I know, I’m pretty damn cool. LOL, But it IS s a toughie. There are TONS of fantastic authors out there to choose from. Okay, back to something more serious…Other than Nightshade, what else is filling up your notebooks and computer screen that we should look out for in the ‘soon to be?’
Stacey – Stolen. It’s a dark paranormal romance centering around Skye and her family’s five hundred year long debt to a faerie lord named Teague. It’s a step away from the YA novels I usually write. And set predominately on the Isle of Man.
Stacey, thank you so much for letting us all get to know you and discover your fantastic offerings, both previous and upcoming. And we all look forward to your future Q&A here on The Horror Tree!
If you would like to find out more, you can follow Stacey at the following links!
Ruschelle: John, nice to meet you. I hope after this interview you can say the same about me. Let’s get to the meat and crunchy bones of some things. First-this love of fire. You mention on a few web pages that you’re an arsonist. Did you go to school for that? Explain this crazy love of flame.
John: Actually, I went to school to be a plumber but I found the sewage kept me from wearing the cowboy shirts with false pearl buttons that I preferred. While I appreciate Leonard Cohen, I also couldn’t reconcile the idea that the crack is where the light gets in. It does. It’s true. Just not my style.
The love of flame began somewhere around Phoenix. I was eight and a friend gave me a collection of Russian fairy tales for my birthday. It was one of those gifts. An eight-year-old with a doorstop. Then I opened the pages and the pages turned into birds, roosted on the shelves in my room, then burst into flame. My parents were weirded out, but there wasn’t any harm done, and the stories were good.
I’ve been lighting things on fire ever since. As a matter of fact, in an effort to fan the flames, my next chapbook is a course in arson. It starts with a syllabus for self-study.
Ruschelle: You are a poet. And as 1970’s singer Phoebe Snow crooned, “…you make things alright.” (Damn I’m old) Is that true of your poetry? Do you make things alright or do prefer to dirty things up and make the world wonder what you’re up to? Hence-arsonist. What does your poetry focus on when you word-sculpt your mini-masterpieces?
John: In addition to poetry, I’m a collage artist, which I think applies to my assembling words together too. Artistically, I work to redeem the discarded mediocrity. Poetically, my work tends in several directions – experimental, social, and darkly speculative. Humor weaves everything together, softening some of the punches so that readers don’t realize the beating until they’re six rounds in.
Ruschelle: Correct me if I’m wrong, but as of 2017 you have written five collections of poetry. How long does it take you to craft each work of poetry? Do you save certain poems for certain works (themed) or is your work written, collected and dispersed with a ‘devil can get bent’ attitude?
John: Correct. My latest collection, “screaming,” was composed last summer. I simply sat down every night and committed to writing a prose poetry sort of piece with the idea of nightmares. Usually, I am not so systematic, but notice themes or particular gems that I begin to orbit – “arson” for example. Then the collections assemble themselves. I’m working to get the poems to write themselves. When I quit the day job, you can ask how that’s going.
Sometimes I have an idea for a collection, for instance, a series of poems covering the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky chess championship from 1972, but the poems themselves simmer for years, occasionally evaporating entirely, sometimes they turn into sugared crystals.
Ruschelle: We all remember our first, even when we’d rather forget they ever existed. What was your first and does it still haunt you to this day. And I am talking about writing and not first boy/girlfriends…who occasionally have a haunting quality. And not always in a good way! LOL
John: I do remember my first four-line poem. It was a something sappy and I snuck it into a girl’s pencil box. Think Percy Shelley’s sonnet “Lift not the painted veil” without any talent, depth of thought, or experience.
Ruschelle: Is there one poem that you have written that you love more than your other poem children?
John: The Butterflies of Traxl IV stands out (published in Pedestal Magazine, and nominated for a Rhysling Award in 2017 http://www.thepedestalmagazine.com/john-reinhart-the-butterflies-of-traxl-iv/). This one stands out because I write so few long poems. After reading the previous year’s Rhysling anthology, I challenged myself to try writing a long poem. This was my most successful result of the few I attempted. I think that this poem captures what I try to bring through my speculative work.
Ruschelle: You play music with your brother Patrick, under the name Reinhart Brothers and can be found on Pandora and can be PURCHASED online at https://reinhartbrothers.bandcamp.com/. Do you find that being a musician is easier or tougher than being a poet? Or is it one in the same?
John: Music is tougher because you disturb more people when you practice. It also takes effort to get together with other musicians, which is the crux of what makes music live. The same might be said for poetry, but it’s easier to get more out of poetry sitting alone in the dark.
Ruschelle: You have three children? Do you believe any of them will be nibbled by the writing monster?
John: They all already play incessantly with words. The latest game is to take something benign someone else has said and add their own twist to it: “Yes, I did.” … “Poop!” They’re also fascinated with the subtleties inherent in our limited language. They can all recite several Shel Silverstein poems (“someone ate the baby”) or snippets they hear me recite whenever I find an excuse.
Ruschelle: Poop is always funny no matter what the age. Or maybe that’s just me. Heh heh. Your poem buried under light- pulls your daughter into your world of words. How often do your children inspire your works?
John: My children inspire pretty much everything I do. My first chapbook, “encircled,” was focused around the people in my life – my children, my wife, my friends, my colleagues, my students, my neighbors. In March sometime, Man In the Street Magazine (https://www.maninthestreetmag.com) will publish an online chapbook feature with poems exclusively about my children. I have another full-length manuscript in the wings that is something like a sequel to “encircled.”
Kids approach the world without the same inhibitions, fears, or assumptions that adults have. They’re open still, flexible. Imagination is true. I leech as much from them as I can. Sometimes poems come in the form of a baseball unexpectedly whizzing toward my head, but also as much from simple questions like, “Papa, can we make a guitar?” their fascination with magic tricks, or just their observations of a world I have to struggle to see.
They also fuel poems about my fears.
Ruschelle: Is there a certain poet or book of poetry that assisted you in finding your own poet’s voice?
John: I am deeply indebted to Donald Rumsfeld, e.e. Cummings, Leonard Cohen, Wisława Szymborska, Ric Mastens, Tom Waits, Rob Stuart, Campbell McGrath, Robert Service, Wolfgang Carstens, Diogenes, Todd Snider, Kenneth Rexroth, Paul Goodman, Matt Borczon, and Aram Saroyan, perhaps in that order, but probably not.
Ruschelle: You won the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association. Brava! Explain what all entailed winning such a prestigious award.
John: I started my poetic career by writing Hallmark greetings. After a few years I needed to branch out, so I kidnapped a few half-starved up-and-coming spec poets, extracted what was necessary, ditched the poets and the greeting cards, and hit the pavement for every spec journal, magazine, blog, or associated venue. By 2016, I had assembled enough dark poetry to blot out my bubblegum past. A few well-targeted threats may have helped my cause.
Ruschelle: Obviously, since you won a Horror Writers Association award, you’re a member! Unless you snuck in…you crazy little fireball. How has being a part of the HWA helped you in the writing world?
John: I don’t carry a card, but my work associated with the HWA and SFPA has connected me to a broader community of supportive writers, howling together at full moons. Attending the 2017 StokerCon was a great connecting experience. I have several souvenir body parts mummified with my 2017 lanyard.
Ruschelle: Oooh body parts. Sweet. Okay, I’ve always wanted to know the answer to this question and I feel you are qualified since you have a bevy of animals that you share your farm with. So here goes…How much wood does a woodchuck chuck if a wood chuck COULD chuck wood?
John: This is a popular question. The answer is, as you might imagine, wholly dependent on the woodchuck. I’ve been training a couple of brutes for competition. At Denver’s altitude and under the training regimen I’ve devised, my two top woodchucks can chuck an entire six-foot privacy fence, running the length of my backyard, around 40 feet. Freestyling, they have chucked as much as a 40’ maple in summer, when it was fully leaved.
Ruschelle: Many writers have a ritual they perform before they put pen to paper or cursor to screen. Other than lots of candles, a cozy fire in the fireplace, a mini-chimenea crackling at your feet and the oven set on broil what else might your rituals be?
John: I prefer a heavy paper because I always write the first poem of the day in blood. So, first and foremost, I sterilize my pen, take a deep breath, then write.
Ruschelle: Blood poems are awesome! If you could collaborate with one other author on a project who would it be and why?
John: Bill Hicks. Partly because he’s dead and I’d love to pick his brain about his travels since death. Add him to my list of influences.
Ruschelle: Your bio states that you are an editor for Poetry Nook. What do you look for in other poets’ works?
John: Yes, I was an editor at Poetry Nook, where I read the poems entered in the free weekly contest (check it out – $150 first prize, $15 honorable mentions – and several spec poets have won or been mentioned). I can tell you more easily what I don’t like. Anything sappy, sentimental, or just cliché romantic, Hallmark stuff, is out. I also disapprove of poems that aim for rhyme and meter without the ability to do either well. A strong poem marries form with content, and too often poets who try to rhyme and have some sense of meter sacrifice both form, due to lack of technical ability, and content because they’re trying too hard to fit a form that doesn’t fit.
Always easier to say what we dislike, isn’t it? Implied above, I appreciate poems where the form compliments the content. I like surprises, and I like to read poems that do not require a chainsaw to understand. Dylan Thomas wrote something to the effect that he read poetry that he enjoyed – mastery, status, or acclaim aside. We should all be so honest in what we read and what we write.
Ruschelle: I want to thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us here at the Horror Tree. It’s been a pleasure. So what do you have planned for your next project? Can you share a little bit of info or… will you have to kill us if you tell us anything? Because that would really suck.
John: I’ve got a horror collection on the broiler and several other side projects that would require murder if they were revealed, or at least the removal of a couple organs for collateral.
“arson” is set for a Marchish release from NightBallet Press , and my next full-length collection, “dig in,” will be out shortly (fulfilling a funding promise to my Patreon patrons – consider supporting my work on an ongoing basis: all patrons will receive a copy of “dig in” regardless of their contributions). While a few pieces in “dig in” are speculative, the collection ranges across all my previous work in form and theme with a clear social conscience.
Check out John Reinhart! You won’t be disappointed.
homepage: Father, Poet, Arsonist
“broken bottle of time”
invert the helix
Ruschelle: So, how do you pronounce your first name? It’s a family name, isn’t it? I bet it stands for something really bitchin in another language. Is it German? How about Icelandic? Never mind, I bet it’s Tattooine!
E.A.: I wish! I have the most boring first name in the universe, which is why I go by initials in the writing and publishing world. I like to keep people guessing and add an air of mystery to my otherwise very mundane and quiet life.
Ruschelle: You have a fantastic series with four books written and more to come! What was your inspiration for the Judah Black series?
E.A.: Thank you! I write mostly what I want to read. I really like to write about normal people in extraordinary situations. The most important aspect of Judah Black is that she’s a single parent. There aren’t a lot of kickass moms in urban fantasy, and I thought I’d like to read that so I wrote it. I created the world she lives in as a response to a question I had after reading tons of urban fantasy books myself: How would the U.S. government really react if we suddenly found out supernaturals lived among us? Someone would have to police them, right? How might they solve supernatural crimes? What kind of conflicts does that create?
Ruschelle: Do you insert real people from your life into your characters? For example, have you based a character off a friend, foe or relative’s characteristics, thought processes and behaviors?
E.A.: Sort of. I lift certain personality traits from people and usually try to mix it up a little so it’s not so obvious. Every character, even the bad guys, have a piece of me in them, too.
Ruschelle: How long does it take for you to create one of your novels? It looks like you published a few in 2016 and 17 alone!
E.A.: It really varies a lot, and not just because they’re all different lengths. One of my shortest novels actually took the longest to write because I spent so much time doing research. It’s set in the wild west, so I had to make sure all the details were right. I can hammer out a rough draft in 15-30 days if I do all the research and planning beforehand. The editing and revision process usually takes a few months.
Ruschelle: Wow, I’m jealous. A draft in 15-30 days? I’m still sputtering through the first page of a 15 page story! I am part turtle. Back to you…Since you have written about both…If you were to be bitten by one who would it be: Werewolves or Vampires? And don’t be stingy, give me a reason.
E.A.: Definitely werewolves! I really don’t like blood, and I’d miss being in the sun for sure. That’s one thing I have in common with Judah, I’m afraid. I really don’t like vampires.
Ruschelle: YES, another werewolf girl. You mention you a trained puppeteer! A gal after my own heart. We are sisters from another mister. Can you elaborate on your background?
E.A.: It’s a really weird skill, isn’t it? I got involved with puppets as a pre-teen in a church group I was part of. As an introvert, I’ve never been big on being in the public eye. Being a puppeteer was a way for me to be part of show business without being seen. It was a lot of fun.
Ruschelle: What was the puppet or show that made you want to be a puppeteer?
E.A.: I actually don’t recall who it was, but it was a ventriloquist act. It was hilarious, and I thought it was a great way for the person to make fun of themselves. Turns out, I’m not a good ventriloquist, but I’m ok with marionettes and other puppets.
Ruschelle: Ventriloquist puppets give me the heebe-jeebees. That Twilight Zone episode took care of that. But would you like to see any of your books acted out with puppets? If so which one?
E.A.: I’ve never really thought of that! All the puppet shows I’ve ever done were for children, and nothing I’ve written so far is appropriate for children at all! I know there are more adult-oriented puppet shows, but I honestly think of my books more like television series, or even as anime sometimes. I’d rather see them adapted like that.
Ruschelle: You write in many different genres and do some sweet mash ups. Do you find that one genre has more fan support than others?
E.A.: So far, I’ve had a lot of support from the urban fantasy and paranormal thriller crowd, but I was really surprised by the number of people who loved my horror western, Beasts of Babylon. The response was a little overwhelming. I had many people who don’t typically read horror tell me how much they enjoyed it. It was recently selected as 2017’s Book of the Year by A Drop of Ink Reviews and I know she doesn’t normally read horror. The weird west/horror western community is much smaller than urban fantasy, but so far I’ve really enjoyed writing for them.
Ruschelle: Do you have one sparkling shard of advice that has enriched you and powered you through being an author?
E.A.: It’s not one specific piece of advice, but rather a whole book. Whenever I feel a little lost, I go back and read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. It’s a sort of parable for people searching for their purpose in life, chasing their dreams. Being an author is hard, and there are so many opportunities to give up or give in. The book and many passages from it have gotten me through some rough times. I really think everyone ought to read it at least once.
Ruschelle: You have gone from a strong female lead to a male main character in your book Kiss of Vengeance and then back again to a female lead. How did you find your ‘male voice’ and do you prefer writing as the dominant female lead?
E.A.: I do not actually! I prefer to write male lead characters. They always come easier to me. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by men and boys. I was raised by my brothers and dad. I’ve always been a sort of Tomboy. Often, if I write female characters, they’re not hyper-feminine either.
Ruschelle: How many more adventures do you see in the world of Judah Black?
E.A.: There will be lots! The Judah Black Novels—the main series, that is—is slated for 12 books total, but I have a spin-off series that takes place in the same world and focuses more on the werewolves. If I can, I’d also like to write at least one book set in the same world, but taking place in Europe to see how countries elsewhere dealt with supernaturals suddenly coming out. I’d like to do at least twenty books set in that world, but we’ll see.
Ruschelle: Do you see a cross over happening with any of your books? That could be really sweet! Judah finds herself in the world of Anastasia Thorn from your new offering Beasts of Babylon?
E.A.: Several fans have suggested it! However, while there are some similarities between their worlds, they’re in different universes. I haven’t yet figured out if/how they might be connected. There will be crossovers between various characters in the Judah Black world. Dal O’Connor from Kiss of Vengeance will have an important role to play in the fifth Judah Black book and beyond. The werewolves from this spin-off series I’m working on, The Silver Bullet Chronicles, are already inherently tied to some characters from the Judah Black Novels, so they’ll definitely have to meet. Readers will see the consequences of decisions made by one set of characters in one book ripple into others.
Ruschelle: If you could visit any of the worlds you’ve written, which one would it be? Or is there one you haven’t written yet that makes your little black heart skip a beat?
E.A.: I have a space opera series coming out in a few weeks, and I think I’d actually pick one of the worlds from there, Clevennia. It’s the main character’s home planet, but readers won’t get to visit it until the second book. Clevennia is sort of what you’d get if you took the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones and populated it with a bunch of characters from Celtic myth before arming them with blasters, spaceships, and laser cannons. Exploring the different planets, people, and cultures in the Broken Empire series has been one of my favorite things about writing.
Ruschelle: Guilty By Association has been made into an audiobook. That’s fantastic. Explain the process. Is that your sexy voice reading to us?
E.A.: Oh, no. That’s Jennifer Harvey Hupf. There are a lot of things I can’t do that are part of the publishing process, so I have to hire someone else to do it for me. She’s a professional. When I decided to do an audiobook, I set everything up through a company called ACX and invited narrators to audition. I got a few auditions and let my fans help me pick who they liked best. She did her recordings—and that side of things is a complete mystery to me—and a few clicks and forms later, it’s all set up. It’s a painless process. Just takes a while.
Ruschelle: I read in this beautiful interview bloggosphere that you just recently purchased model art for your book covers from Neo Stock. How do you choose the models from what you’ve created in your fantastic imagination?
E.A.: It’s hard, especially since I write characters who aren’t always 20-somethings. Judah is a little older, in her 30’s. Stock art that isn’t over-used is kind of difficult to find. When I heard NeoStock was launching their cinematic stock art collection, I had to have some. Dean Samed, who runs NeoStock, created a group for authors and cover artists to make requests. We got to tell him what kind of photo shoots and models we were looking for, and he did a wonderful job taking that into account for his photo shoots.
Ruschelle: You have yet ANOTHER offering locked and loaded, Broken Empire: Aftermath. Can you slip our readers a little hors d’ oeuvres before the real feast begins?
E.A.: There’s a sample chapter available if people are interested in reading the first chapter before it officially comes out! You can read it by signing up here: https://www.subscribepage.com/EACopen_scifi
I’ll say it’s very different from my other work. It has some heavier political overtones. I call it Game of Thrones meets Mass Effect. It’s very much like that. You have various factions across two empires vying for power, scheming against one another. The main character, Timothy Val, is a guy caught in the middle who just wants to live his life, but gets pulled into the struggle after defying an order to execute innocent civilians after a battle. And while everyone is busy squabbling, there’s an ancient, destructive force building up power in Dark Space, waiting for the right moment to strike and wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy.
Ruschelle: You mentioned earlier that Broken Empire is a Space Opera!! Explain this concept or I’m going to assume they all sing…so I’ll also assume it’s going to be an audiobook. LOL
E.A.: Technically, Star Wars is a space opera, and so is Dune. If you like those kinds of stories, you’ll like this. Space opera is a genre where there are usually big empires with big problems that the characters must solve. There’s romance, space battles, and sometimes a very slight hint of magic. In Star Wars, The Force is a sort of space magic. I have characters who have their own powers that will change the universe. One lady is a slave who can see a person’s past by touching them. There’s a mercenary alien immune to fire. Genetically engineered assassins, people coming back from the dead… Space opera takes all the grand, sweeping landscapes of epic fantasy and brings them to space with a touch of technology.
Ruschelle: Consider me schooled. You are a prolific writer! How do write so quickly and eloquently? We need to know what deal you made with the devil or Jin or politician….and how can the rest of us get in on it.
E.A.: Lots of practice, I suppose. I’ve been writing since I was four years old. Finished my first book (a very bad Star Wars fan fiction) around 10. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and had lots of opportunities to learn and grow. I also have the advantage of not having a day job. I’m either writing or editing 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. Most of the time, I have multiple projects going at once in different stages. I have 2 books finished right now in different revision stages, and two more that I’m writing.
Ruschelle: It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and discover your fantastic worlds. Where can your newfound fans find you and bow down to your awesomness?
E.A.: The best way to stay up to date with what I’m up to is to join my mailing list. Readers get a free novella in the Judah Black universe, Perfect Storm, for signing up. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/es7rcdbclj
Next to that, they can like my author page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EACopen/
They can also join my fanclub on Facebook where things are a little less formal: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1002317576536616/
I’m also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/authoreacopen
And Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authoreacopen/
I’m currently building a new website, but the old one is here: www.ea-copen.com
If readers are just interested in receiving new release announcements, the best place to do that is to follow me on Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/e-a-copen
Thanks for having me!
Ruschelle: Theresa Derwin! It’s okay if I call you Theresa, right?
Theresa: No! You must call me ‘Mistress of Mayhem’!
Ruschelle: Yes Mistress of Mayhem. May I have another. Uhh…never mind. Maybe later. Let’s just delve in, shall we? You’re a prolific author. This year alone you have written a ton of stuff. How many stories/books have you written THIS YEAR?
Theresa: I’ve just checked my submission stats and I’ve submitted 17 projects; a mixture of short stories and novellas plus edited or created three anthologies.
Ruschelle: Woah, I’m tired just reading that. Now, how many of those have been accepted and published?
Theresa: I’ve done pretty well this year with a 57% acceptance rate. Which equates to around three anthologies and seven stories published with some out next year.
Ruschelle: Woman, you are a writing machine! Tell us a little bit about your website http://terror-tree.co.uk.
Theresa: I started Terror Tree ten years ago. It’s a genre review and blogging site, with completions and press releases. However, as my writing career has picked up I’ve handed over the reins to a Yvonne Davies, a prolific reader and booker lover. The site has a great reputation and I was invited to blog one of Sarah Pinborough’s earlier book launches for Mayhem, by Jo Fletcher books. As you’ll know, she’s just nailed a seven-figure book deal.
Ruschelle: Amazing. Both you and Sarah Pinborough. You are very active in many of Horror, book and comic Conventions. You’ve even helped put together CON events. What do you enjoy the most about the conventions?
Theresa: Meeting friends and like-minded people, Horror, and SFF fans and book lovers. A lot of the cons I speak at feel like family; community.
Ruschelle: Do you have a favorite cos-play costume when you attend the Conventions?
Theresa: I’ve seen some great cosplays in my time. At Birmingham Horror Con I loved the kids dressed as Chucky, but from a personal point of view, my favourite was when I dressed as Buffy the Donut Slayer.
Ruschelle: Bwahahaha! Donut Slayer…dammit. Now I’m hungry. Okay, this question many not be an easy one for you to answer. But I know you take this particular series very seriously. It is also a staple of some of the Cons out there, so take your time; who is the HOTTEST dude on Supernatural television series? And don’t say, Dean…He’s mine. I don’t want to share him…
Theresa: Ha ha! Oh, that’s a tricky one! I love Sam, though he looks like a hair salon advert at times, then I love Dean.
Can I say tormented S3 Dean and Demon Dean (S10) plus Sam most of the time but – seriously, Soulless Sam! OMG, the hotness!
Ruschelle: I have to agree, Soulless Sam was quite yummy. Like…a donut! UGH! Still hungry. Another question to stave off the donut craving. When were you first bitten by the writing monster? Or was it an alien?
Theresa: I was nine years old, sitting in a book reading area with my best mate Jo. We were asked to write a poem. The teacher applauded mine, though was concerned it involved a Lord who beheaded people.
Ruschelle: Your Daddy Paddy raised you right and baptized you in the dark, soul-chilling waters of 50’s Science Fiction and the Universal Monster classics. Which monster is your absolute favorite? Has it made an appearance in any of your stories?
Theresa: Hey, you’ve done your research! Well, my first collection Monsters Anonymous was a series of stories about all monsters. For me, it’s the Mummy. I wrote a story called ‘Are You My Mummy’ in that Collection, a deliberate pun that Dr Who fans will recognise.
Then this year I edited an anthology of Mummy stories ‘Mummy Knows Best’, dedicated to my Uncle Patrick an intrepid traveller, dancer and language professor, who passed away the day after the book launched at FantasyCon. So that book means a lot to me.
Ruschelle: You are quite close with your Daddy Paddy! He’s such a cute fellow. Has Daddy Paddy ever made an appearance in your any of your stories?
Theresa: Ha, not him personally, but his jokes do! He has some great one-liners I’m always using. The other day we watched a Supernatural episode involving organ theft and Daddy Paddy exclaimed, “He’s been kidney-apped!” Loved it.
Ruschelle: I see where you get your humor. Which we’ll get to in a few other questions. But, you’ve swam (or is it swum?) in the primordial ooze that is Fantasy, Horror and Romance. Hell, you have even bastardized a few and done Horrific Romance. So cool. Of the genres, which is your fav?
Theresa: Ah, it’s Horror. My first love is and will always be Horror – though as you point out I’ve merged genres. With my story ‘What About Bob?’ We have a possessed demonic vibrator as the baddie.
Ruschelle: I hate when good vibrators go bad. You have been involved with Knight Watch Press and of late your own publication, Quantum Corsets where you have knitted together some fantastic anthologies. Which one has been your favorite? And you don’t have to say Weird Ales 2 -Another Round because I have a story in it. It would be nice, but you really don’t have to. But there is a nice crisp 10 dollar bill in it for you….
Theresa: Ooh, tempting …. Actually, it’s the Weird Ales trilogy. A lot of work and love went into those three books and they were nearly four years in the making from concept to final products.
Ruschelle: You are a fan of humor in horror, which purists find vile! I say…well, never mind what I say about that. But one word does rhyme with truck… There is most definitely humor in horror! That being said, is there anything you feel SHOULDN’T be humorous? Where do you draw your line when writing or reading a humor/horror story?
Theresa: I think it’s the obvious here. Forms of sexual abuse of any kind and humour which pokes fun around deeply disturbing and emotional historical events.
Ruschelle: Is there a genre that’s a stranger to you? Is there one you’ve been flirting with and eventually plan to invite it over for some cheap wine and mushy peas, and after a few hours of pretending you care about its hopes, dreams and underwhelming childhood, you slip on the Marvin Gaye, eye up the bulge throbbing in… whatever kind of pants a genre wears and jumps its bones? In other words, is a genre you’d like to wrestle? I may need a cigarette for this answer.
Theresa: Okay, confession time. It’s Christmas Romance. Not PNR but full on chick lit Christmas Romance – Sarah Morgan, Carole Matthews, Sue Moorcroft. I love those books, but I don’t have the willpower not to take the piss out of genres I’m afraid, so I think I’d fail.
Ruschelle: Speaking of wrestle- we’re touching on the boys from Supernatural again! Would you rather see them wrestle in a pool of chocolate pudding OR a life-size bowl chicken noodle soup? And which do you think will come out a winner? As usual, clothing optional….for you and them.
Theresa: Right, first let me say I think the boys are brilliant actors, passionate about the series and their fans and the writing (not Buck-Lemming,) is exceptional – all that aside, chocolate pudding and the winner would depend on the season. For instance, post season 12 it’s got to be Sam with his leader vibe.
Ruschelle: Oh yeah, donuts and now pudding! Sweet Christmas Romance. Soooo…of everything you have written, is there one story you are most proud of?
Theresa: My recent story Trapped, which came out Oct in Below the Stairs along with Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker and Paul Kane. Steve Dillon the editor worked my arse off but found themes in that story I never knew existed.
Ruschelle: Steve Dillon! He’s my cousin’s, brother’s, boyfriend’s ShihTzu’s plumber twice removed! As you can clearly see, we are tight. Hi Steve. Since you are from the UK here’s a question that is rife with political implications….Chips or Fries?
Theresa: Chips – were done here!
Ruschelle: You always have such exotic hair colors! I love it. Does the change in your hair color create another persona? And does this persona have its own writing style and voice?
Theresa: Hmm, an interesting one. In a way yes, it’s the Mask I wear to attend a con when it’s vibrant and bright. The pink and blue Harley Quinn look enabled me to feel confident and vivacious.
Ruschelle: You have an anthology entitled, Her Dark Voice 2, slinking out of the ether early in 2018. Some of the profits will be donated to the Breast Cancer Now Campaign. Other than being a woman and donning breasts, why did you choose to dedicate an anthology to breast cancer research? http://breastcancernow.org/
Theresa: Unfortunately I’ve lost quite a few friends and family to this awful illness, and as the old adage goes, knowledge is power, so funding research into this area is vitally important. I’ll be starting a campaign in early 2018 to raise production costs so more money can go to the charity.
Ruschelle: How can our readers and your new fans get involved in the Breast Cancer Now campaign?
Theresa: Contact me at [email protected] or via Twitter @BarbarellaFem and you can pre-order the book or donate to the design costs.
Ruschelle: Is there anything else exciting coming up for 2018 beside Her Dark Voice 2? What do you have cooking up in that brilliant writer’s mind of yours?
Theresa: Ha ha! Mwahaha I’m working on a couple of horror stories, but I’m pitching a non-fiction genre related book to a publisher and finishing off my post-apocalyptic sexually transmitted disease novella ‘God’s Vengeance’ for Crystal Lake Publishing as well as ‘Once Upon a Feather’ a post-Trump world in which supernatural creatures are housed together in old holiday resort complexes away from ‘normal’ society.
Ruschelle: Theresa, you have been fantastic. Thank you so much for letting Horror Tree readers dissect you without the messy blood spurts and clean up.
Follow Theresa on www.theresaderwin.co.uk/ and on https://m.facebook.com/theresa.derwin
Ruschelle: Tell us a little about yourself. Tell us something…juicy. Something that we would never guess is hiding somewhere inside the sinew of your meat suit.
Drew: I’ll start with the basics and then get onto the FILTH. I was born outside of Detroit and moved around a lot as a kid. After Detroit, I moved to Iowa, then back to Michigan, then to Memphis, then to Minnesota and then I went to high school in Maryland, and then college in Florida. Right after college, I moved to Los Angeles. I have worked in the entertainment industry since 1994.
NOW SECRETS! This should come as no surprise to anyone who read my first book, Godless, but I used to really love making myself puke. So much so that I spent the better part of my senior year of college in a hospital for bulimia. I was the only guy there. I learned a lot and it completely changed my perspective on the world, specifically on females. I’m not sure if that’s what you were looking for. It’s kind of juicy… consistency-wise.
Ruschelle: I would agree with you on the consistency. Puke can be juicy OR chunky! But I digress…Knuckle Baller, your sequel to Knuckle Supper will be readily available around Thanksgiving. (What a great gift to bring to dinner with the fam! People reading: write this down….) What should readers expect from book number two that might not have existed in book number one; either in content or your story telling style?
Drew: [Smug tone] It’s actually Knuckle Balled. Just kidding. It’s an honest mistake. Originally, it was called Knuckle Ball. I changed it because I wanted to name to reflect how fucked our protagonist, RJ, was going to get throughout the story.
Besides the fact that the sequel has more gangs, more violence and a different location, it’s actually the exact same book. Kidding again. I wanted to take RJ out of Los Angeles for the first time in his miserable existence and turn the tables on him. Unlike the first book, he doesn’t have buy-in from those around him and he doesn’t lead a gang anymore. Spoiler: They’re all dead. With this book, I really wanted to change the theme of right versus wrong to right versus getting high and others versus self. RJ might be an anti-hero but he’s actually just a selfish asshole. He doesn’t realize that throughout the book every decision he makes is the wrong decision and no matter how he tries to justify his actions (with the help of first person perspective), the reader is on to him throughout the story. That said, I want the readers to root for him to make ANY good decision, rather than rooting for him as a hero.
Knuckle Supper is somewhat straight forward. He needs to do the right thing because he realizes that he’s a human being (kind of). On this book the lines are further blurred and if we learn from Eldritch that if we were seeing things unfold through someone else’s eyes… RJ would definitely come off as a villain.
It’s all about building his character and therefore creating the vampire lore that follows. There are going to be four books total in the main canon (there will be spinoffs) so I want the characters epiphanies to take time. I want the reader to learn something about themselves with him.
Ruschelle: AHHHH! Damn balls are always getting me in trouble. But that’s another sordid story that I’ll make up at another time. How about this– If and more likely- when they make Knuckle Supper & Knuckle Balled into feature films, do you see any particular actor/actress portraying the roles you so brilliantly crafted?
Drew: My co-scriptwriter, girlfriend and I have been making lists for years. It’s tough because of RJ’s age. Unfortunately, the people that I REALLY like for his role (in particular) might be a little too old. RJ is mid-to-late 30s.
If I were to make a DREAM CAST, it would be…
RJ Reynolds – Aaron Paul
Bait – An Unknown
Dez – Dane DeHann
The Habit – Lindsey Lohan
King Cobra – Terry Crews
Linnwood Perry – Jack Gleeson
Nomi – Erika Ervin
Eldritch – Alexander Skarsgard
Pinball – An Unknown
Cody Walker – Graham Rogers
There are many more characters, but I figured I’d just knock out the big one. Trust me. I know this ain’t gonna happen.
Ruschelle: Which bad ass vampire would you like to see munch the hell out of any and all of the Twilight Vampires?
Drew: Too easy. I’d like to see the posse from Near Dark roll there RV up to the Twilight house, break in and just destroy them… then use their shitters and not flush. I would watch a home invasion movie with that happening over and over again.
Ruschelle: LOVE those Near Dark vamps, in a…non-conjugal way. Here’s a question that will chaff your chorizo, I know it does mine. (And yes, I HAVE a chorizo. I keep it in my purse.) PG-13 in horror? GO!
Drew: It’s like fake news. It’s not a real thing. It’s a brutal cash grab and I fucking hate it. I’ve been a fan of horror for as long as I can remember and (for instance) when I saw Halloween for the first time when I was 7, I felt like I was doing something not allowed. It was dangerous. It was… AWESOME!
BRAGGING ALERT: When I won the award in 2011 for best Indie horror novel for Knuckle Supper, I convinced myself that I won the best horror novel overall. Sure, I didn’t win the award for best commercial horror novel and I’m fine with that. I swear a lot in my books, there is an incredible amount of drug abuse and they tend to be extremely violent. So, yeah, that’s not commercial. Fuck commercial.
Ruschelle: It took 4 years to complete the sequel to Knuckle Supper. What was going on in those 4 years to shape Knuckle Balled?
Drew: It was a rough experience… one that I’m not going to relive with the third book (which I’ve already put a dent in). The second book in the any franchise is always the toughest. It can truly be make or break. I spent a long time overthinking how to get from point A to point B. That said, writing these books takes a toll on me. I want to write things that are true and real (with the supernatural element) but sometimes it’s tough to jump through the hoops and write about the horrors of the real world. I want this series to be more than just some horror book series and I think for a long time about what lines I can cross. That’s why A LOT of the most awful shit goes down off-screen. I don’t want to end up painting myself into something that will be frowned upon later (i.e. the gang bang scene in IT).
Real answer. I’m a procrastinator. Good thing people are liking Knuckle Balled as much as the first.
Ruschelle: Billy Idol, Billy Corgan or wait for it…Billy Ocean? Give this one some thought.
Drew: Idol FOREVER! Funny. Two weekends ago, on my birthday, my girlfriend took me to Vegas to see Idol’s last residency show at House of Blues (Mandalay Bay). Anyway, I texted my friend Chris that I was going to see “Billy” in Vegas and that he should come meet us there. He responded, “Billy who?” Of course, I responded “Ocean.” It was the only answer to such a dumb question. I’ve seen him many times and it’s always a great show.
Ruschelle: Are you one of those writers that can work while listening to music? Or are you like…ahem…some of us that feed off of the teat of silence? At least I think it’s a teat…
Drew: Yes. I write every chapter and every character to music. For instance, in the very first chapter of KS, I listened to “One Track Mind” by Johnny Thunders over and over again. In another scene, when RJ and Dez take down the cops and the Perry snitch, I listened to “Riot Squad” by Cock Sparer. The main character/music songs below. You should make a playlist on THE Spotify. You can see that each character’s music changes in the second book. At least, those who survived the first. SPOILER!
RJ – “Change the Key” – 7 Seconds
Dez – “Buried Myself Alive” – The Used
Eldritch – “Farewell” – Xymox
The Habit – “Drain the Blood” the Distillers
Bait – “Somebody Got Murdered” – The Clash
Nomi – “After the Fall” – Klaus Nomi
King Cobra – “Mystic Man” – Peter Tosh
Linnwood Perry – “Seventy-Seven” – The Furios
Copperhead – “Hand Grenade” – Cutty Ranks
The Knucklers (gang) – “Chinese Rocks” – Johnny Thunders
The BBP (gang) – “Gangsters” – The Specials
The Batwangers – “invaders Must Die” – The Prodogy
The Battlesnakes (gang) – “Ravers” – Steel Pulse
El Reinado de Sangre (gang) – “Raining Blood” – Slayer
Skinland Invasion (gang) – Anything by Screwdriver
The Cloth – The Lord’s Prayer
RJ – “Ain’t it Fun” – The Dead Boys / “Life is Pain” – Leftover Crack
Eldritch – “Rodent” – Skinny Puppy
Linnwood Perry – “Can You Dig It” – Jam X & DeLeon
Pinball – “Jeruselum” – Sinead O’Connor
Cody Walker – “Bro Hymn” – Pennywise
The Chaplins (gang) – “Modern Times” – Michel Villard
The RTL (gang) – “Ride the Lightning” – Metallica
The Real McCoys (gang) – “Straight to Hell” – Hank III
The Sixth Street Skulls (gang) – “Tu No Viva Asi” – Arcangel X Bad Bunny
BBP (gang) – “Pursuit of Happiness” – Kid Cudi / MGMT / Steve Aoki
The Minutemen – “I Fought the Law” – Bobby Fuller Four
The Cloth – The Lord’s Prayer
There is also a scene near the end of Knuckle Balled that I listened to “Thunder Kiss ‘65” by White Zombie OVER AND OVER AND OVER again while I wrote it. The guitar intro sets up about fifty pages of non-stop action until the end of the book… which was difficult to write because I am much more of a dialogue and character writer.
Ruschelle: This is the most beautiful list of punk rock music I have ever seen. I’m gonna need some time alone with it and so will the readers. Download these tunes people!
You’ve done work in the entertainment industry. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a personal fav, don’t judge me), and The Profiler, to name drop a few. Were you inspired in your own works by what you helped others create? Sometimes helping others can ultimately help you…
Drew: I kind of divide my work up into two sections… A) the work I do to put food on the table and B) the work I do to fulfill my creative drive. Anything that I do during the day is usually based on someone else’s IP (I’ve worked pretty heavily in branded entertainment for the past 11 years). I try to separate the two and hope one day, I’ll be able to bring my IP to life as a film or TV series.
Ruschelle: In life we learn from all sorts of places. You’ve written for Film Threat. What is one thing you learned from writing for Film Threat that you feel you wouldn’t have learned anywhere else?
Drew: It was my first job out of college and I wouldn’t EVER go back in time and change it. It was like getting hit by the Hollywood bus the second I walked into town. Strangely enough, I met E. Elias Merhige when I worked there and I fell in love with his first film, Begotten. About three months ago, I got the opportunity to catch up with him and even got him to read the Knuckle series (so far) and give me a blurb for the cover of the new book. It meant the world to me. I wrote a blurb that was on the cover of the Begotten video and DVD and he returned the favor.
My quote on Begotten (1994):
“The result is a thing of beauty where realistic images are turned upside down by the grotesque and flowers are trampled by the darkening clouds of a nightmare.”
His quote on Knuckle Balled:
“Anything that represents and reveals the most painful and disgusting parts of ourselves and our society, and does so with glee and humor—heals us by the very act of its creation. Knuckle Balled has fun while accomplishing this.”
I guess the thing I learned… don’t burn bridges. Friends from 20+ years ago will remain your friends and support you forever. I wish I could talk to a bunch of kids who are about to enter the working world to tell them that.
Ruschelle: You have made some fantastic connections. You lucky bastard. On that same ‘lucky bastard’ note, you’ve worked on Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno & Saturday Night Live. What was your role on each show? And please don’t tell me pastry & coffee provider because that would be AWESOME!!!
Drew: Nope, nothing that… AWESOME! In 1996, NBC was just starting to build NBC.com. That said, I got this incredible opportunity to come on and be a writer (online, of course) for all of the NBC-owned properties (including Saved by the Bell: The New Class and the Saturday night THRILLOGY). So, most of my work was limited to online but I did end up winning a Webby award (Stand of Excellence: Best of the Web) for an online gameshow called The Probe that I created for Saturday Night Live.
Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely the biggest opportunity of my life and man.
Ruschelle: You have written, produced and directed. That’s a lot of different hats, and you have such sweet hair! But…which one do you feel fits you the best. Which one is Drew Stepek?
Drew: I like writing. I like creating from the ground up. Producing is such a money/numbers game and it makes me anxious. The best thing I think that I’ve produced in the last five years or so was this branded thing that I did for AwesomenessTV and Pride, Prejudice + Zombies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkXwIo3sycQ).
Ruschelle: Godless was your first novel. You mention that you wrote it because of your own personal issues with addiction and bulimia. Did enrobing your struggles in fiction help you deal with your issues? Or had you already battled your monsters and needed to put them to rest the way many Creatives do…by slaking their hearts in a book?
Drew: It went on much longer than it should have and continued after the publishing of Godless. I can honestly say that I have come to terms with it and kind of forgotten about it. My Pirelli will attest to that. All my books and stories have a common theme of addiction and abuse. Like I said earlier, being the hospital taught me something that I didn’t even realize (at the time) that I had to learn. 100% of the girls that I was in the hospital with had been sexually abused and that seriously spiked into my psyche.
But to answer your question (I’m not doing a very good job at that), fiction helps me take those dark roads again without actively participating. I was originally going to write a sequel to Godless. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to find myself in that world again… because it was REAL. Then, the idea for Knuckle Supper came along and I figured that I would take these “happy” themes and put them into another world. If I weren’t trying to bring these two worlds together, the Knuckle series would be trash. It’s important to use horror as a vessel to deliver reality. I guess that’s why I’m not super into extreme horror. What the fuck is the story about? If there isn’t an arc where the characters learn something about themselves… it isn’t even a story. It’s just gross words folded into a book. I don’t mean to be a snob or discredit anyone but that’s just my opinion. To me, it’s like… let’s take all the gross shit out of Clive Barker books and ditch the characters and any motivations.
Ruschelle: Atheism is a notable theme in Godless. You have also written stories of soulless beings in the Knuckle series. How does Atheism affect your characters? Is there more freedom with creating characters who are Atheist?
Drew: Yes, Atheism is another common theme in my writing. I think I stopped believing in God when I was around 14. It’s not something I’m incredibly proud of because (like most people), I’d like to believe that there is something after all this. I just… don’t. I think everyone should stand behind what they believe in though (even if it’s dumb like $cientology). I respect the hell out of people who stand up for their beliefs and don’t try to force it down other people’s throats.
There is a freedom (for me) in creating Atheist characters. I guess we are taught to write what we know, or in the case of Atheism… write what we know doesn’t exist. I think that was the genesis of The Cloth in the Knuckle series, and to some extent, The Habit. Even if the characters are used to mock the other side of my belief, they are purposely put there to show that the other side exists. After all, RJ is an increasingly untrustworthy narrator so who’s to say that he’s right or wrong. Spoiler: He’s wrong 99.9% of the time.
Ruschelle: Do you like pasta? Is so, what is your favorite? If you do not like pasta, I will change your answer so it looks like you DO like pasta because it is the CORRECT answer. Any recipes ya wanna share?
Drew: Rigatoni. Rigatoni. Rigatoni. Whenever I order pasta online, I will usually order spaghetti and meatballs… insisting in the notes that they send Rigatoni. Last time, Maggiano’s fucking dissed me and sent me spaghetti. I chased the Door Dash driver down and slit his tires and then beat him into a coma. Not really. I wanted to though. Stupid long-ass noodles. I don’t have a pasta recipe but I do have my own Three Meat Ass Explosion Chili Recipe below. I guess you could put it over Rigatoni.
1 lb Ground Turkey
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Chicken
1 Bottle of Heinz 57
1 Bottle of A1
1 Bottle of Worchester Sauce
1 Bottle of Chalula
2 Habanero Peppers
1 large can of tomato sauce
2 cans of S&W chili beans
1 shaker of chili powder
1 shaker of cayenne pepper
1 shaker of Old Bay (I lived in Maryland)
2 Squares of dark chocolate
1 bag of shredded cheese (sharp cheddar)
Begin by cooking all three meats in a large frying pan (one at a time)
When simmering the meat, add 1/3 a bottle of 57, A1, Worchester, Chalula to each. Also, cover the top of the meat with chili powder, cayenne pepper and old bay and mix it in until the meat has sucked up all the juice and spices.
When all three meats are cooked, throw them into a crock pot.
Pour in the two cans of S&W beans and at least half of the tomato sauce.
Dice the habaneros and add them in as well.
Add the dark chocolate.
Let cook in the crock pot for 6 hours. Stir regularly. If that shit isn’t hot enough, add Tabasco continuously.
Serve in a bowl. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
Serve to your friends. It’s a gnarly experience. They taste the chocolate first and think, “Oh, this isn’t so bad… kinda sweet.” About 10 seconds later, they feel that shit attacking their bodies like a chest-buster from Alien is about to jump out of their sphincter. The next day, they will hate you.
This is a ‘stand-in’ bowl of black bean soup. Drew’s actual pot of chili asked not to photographed (friggin Diva) so I had to make do.
Ruschelle: That looks absolutely delicious. Chili is best eaten over pasta. In my opinion. So when should I expect you over to make me a vat? Better be soon, you made me hungry.
Back to the questions–Hindsight is always 20/20. So is there anything about your books that you would change if you could? Or do you love every word, ellipses and quotation you penned?
Drew: OMG, yes. We went back in the 3rd edition of Knuckle Supper (The Ultimate Gutter Edition). We took out this REALLY dumb thing that I put in the book where the vamps would take on the traits of the animals that they devoured. I really wanted to create a vampire series where almost everything can be explained in the real world… our world. My editor at Blood Bound Books, Andrea Dawn, made me get rid of it and thankfully, I listened.
Boy, was that dumb.
We also added in this new “character” that is important in the second book called The Gooch. Essentially, The Gooch is RJ’s withdrawal speaking to him. There is a real tug of war in Knuckle Balled between The Gooch and RJ’s dreams, that act as his conscious.
Ruschelle: Will there be a 3rd book in the Knuckle series?
Drew: YEP! As I said earlier, I’ve already put a dent in it. It’s now called KNUCKLER. Originally it was called Knuckle Smasher.
Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t finished Knuckle Balled, DO NOT read this next paragraph.
The book takes place in Mexico and RJ faces his worst big bads to date. Much more inspired by The Five Deadly Venoms that The Warriors (like the first two books), in KNUCKLER, RJ goes head-to-head with a cartel of Mexican vampires called The Five Knuckles of the Demon’s Fist or Cinco Nudillos del Puño del Demonio. The Cartel is broken up by five different vamp leaders who participate in five different illegal activities across the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The cartel is broken up by:
- The Solider – El Soldado – Arms Dealer
- The Scientist – El Científico – Black market organ dealer and more
- The Shephard – El Pastor – Human trafficking
- White – Blanco – Coke Dealer
- Black – Negro – Heroin Dealer
It’s totally fucking insane. There is also a main character returning from the first book. That person will play an important part in showing who RJ is. A lot of the book will take place in flashbacks before RJ met Bait.
Ruschelle: Dammit it, I read the spoiler without finishing the book! UGH!! Honestly, that’s okay because I am a spoiler junkie. Yes, I read endings first. I do what I want!
What is next on your literary plate? Anything in the works or are you delving into something different?
Drew: I’m going to finish KNUCKLER and then almost immediately start the final book in the main canon, The Last Knuckle Supper. Then, I am probably going to start the spinoff books, which (as of right now) are:
Assault of the Earth – Cody Walker versus the Sunshine zombies
I’m With Perry – What happens to Linnwood Perry after Knuckle Balled
The Poser – Not revealing any information
Lunar – Not Revealing any information
Maybe an Eldritch Book. I should call it that.
Ruschelle: Some of the proceeds from the Knuckle series goes towards the charity Children of the Night, which helps sexually exploited children from prostitution. These children are much more than a statistic. What do you want people to take away from this organization and to learn from these kids?
Drew: I just really want people to know what’s going on and that there are people doing things to try and stop human trafficking, as well as child prostitution and exploitation. It’s not something that really comes up on everyone’s radar very often and it should. Granted, I live in Los Angeles where it’s a major problem but people shouldn’t be surprised to find out that it’s going on right in their backyards. It is the main driver for this entire series and in KNUCKLER, I will definitely be hitting it much stronger. Bait and Pinball are just scratching the surface and when all is revealed by the end of the series, I am hoping that I will kick the message into people’s teeth. Lois Lee (the owner of Children of the Night) is a saint, man. The work she does goes so far beyond just getting these kids off the street and getting them a bed. She is getting these kids to college, into the workforce and beyond. Before 1979, this wasn’t even close to a reality. Even if only one person understands my message and how it relates to Children of the Night and gives their time and money to this incredible organization, well, I’ve achieved my goal. Check out their site. Follow and like them on social networks. Give MUCH NEEDED money.
Ruschelle: It’s been a damn pleasure Drew. A damn pleasure. Readers and new fans of Drew, check him out on any of these sites.
BUT JUST WAIT, yeah this is now an interview infomercial—Drew wrote The Horror Tree a personal story! He brings us on an emotional journey- one that might leave us crying. But we can’t, because…there’s no crying in baseball.
PLUS, he’s gifted us with photos highlighting each step! Strap one on folks…errr…I mean…strap in and meet the man, the legend Number 666 Dreeeeeeew Stepek!
Everybody cheer, dammit.
The Dodgers fucking lost last night and I’m pissed. Gonna take it to the street and fuck shit up.
Rather than sitting around crying, I wanted to walk around LA remind myself why I live in the greatest and HARDEST city in the world.
It’s chilly out today so I threw on my phresh hood. It’ll keep me incognito if I decide to beat down some tourists from Houston.
Tagged a wall. LA is the home of street art. That’s what’s up.
Immediately outside, I was reminded of the Dodger’s loss by a sign at Shakey’s Pizza. I smiled, though. Shakey’s is from LA and they don’t have it anywhere else in the world. All you can eat pizza and hojo potatoes, BITCH!
I walked by this old diner. That motherfucker is open 27 hours! I bet they don’t have places open 27 hours where you live. LA. Only.
Walked by the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Looked at some statues n shit. Felt cultured.
Stopped in front of this dope Ed Hardy museum because it told me not walk. LA. Period.
I bet you didn’t know that in LA bushes grow empty cans of malt liquor. #MiracleMaltingBush #211
We got tar n shit, too. I bet they don’t have Mammoths drowning in tar in your town. Pussy.
Check out these plates! I bet you can’t get personalized vanity plates where you live. Stupid randomly selected numbers and letters.
That’s right. LA is the greatest city in the world. Buy Knuckle Balled and the Knuckle Supper: Ultimate Gutter Fix Edition on November 23rd. Please. Thank you.