I first discovered Jeff Strand in 2010 when a novel titled Dweller arrived in my mailbox as part of the monthly Leisure Books horror club back in the day.
After reading it, Dweller instantly clawed into my Top 10 all-time books. It chronicled the entire decades-long friendship started between a lonely boy and an even lonelier Bigfoot-like creature. It was horror but unlike any horror I’d ever read before.
I met Strand at a Bigfoot conference in Georgia last year where he and his talented artist/wife Lynne were selling their books and art at one of the booths. I, of course, had to have him sign my copy of Dweller, and I even bought a print of his wife’s Dweller cover.
While mostly known as a master of horror-comedy, Strand writes straight horror with the best of the genre. Two of his novels, Dweller and Pressure, were nominated for Bram Stoker Awards. His short story, “Tipping Point,” won a Splatterpunk Award for Best Short Story.
With more than 40 books to his name, Strand released four more in 2019. The plots ranged from zombie animals and a serial killer with family issues to clowns versus spiders and werewolves.
So, which one was the most difficult to write and which one was the most fun?
“Ferocious was the most difficult to write because of its simplicity,” Strand said in an exclusive interview with Horror Tree. “Two characters in a cabin surrounded by zombie animals. It was basically just a constant series of ‘Okay, now they’re totally screwed again. How do I get them out of this?” decisions.
“The most fun to write, and I suspect that this answer will surprise you, was My Pretties. Something like Clowns Vs. Spiders seems like it would be an absolute blast to write, but the absurd-yet-scary tone was a fairly tricky balancing act, and I’m slow at writing action sequences. My Pretties is more about suspense than action, and I really enjoyed figuring out how to parse out the information that revealed the big twist.”
Strand returned to his Wolf Hunt series in 2019, continuing the story of his two beloved characters, George and Lou. Why does Strand keep returning to these characters?
“About halfway through writing the first Wolf Hunt book, I thought, ‘I love these guys! Maybe I’ll write another one!’ But I focus on original novels far more than sequels, which has meant a four-to-five-year gap between each of the George and Lou novels, and that, my friend, is a terrible way to do a series. Though compared to my Andrew Mayhem series, I am blasting out the Wolf Hunt novels at a lightning-fast pace!
“Wolf Hunt 3 came from reader demand and the fact that Wolf Hunt 2, though it didn’t have a cliffhanger ending, left plenty of unanswered questions. So, there was always going to be a third book … but when? A combination of elements made me decide that it was finally time to bring these poor bastards back. I don’t consider this the final book of a trilogy, but I did purposely write it so there doesn’t have to be a Wolf Hunt 4.
“Jumping back into these characters was effortless. I could write an entire novel of just George and Lou driving and talking. But, of course, the series is also about insane, over-the-top action, so I had to make sure the book delivered that aspect as well. If Wolf Hunt 2 is the darkest and meanest book, Wolf Hunt 3 is the weirdest and sickest.”
On January 13th, Canada’s Binge Bros. Productions announced they were optioning Strand’s 2016 young adult novel, The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, for a movie adaptation. Strand wrote the screenplay himself, admitting he had to cut a lot of content.
“There’s actually stuff happening with several other books, but it’s all under a thick veil of secrecy,” Strand said. “Well, not Disposal — I’m allowed to say that Buffalo, New York filmmaker Mick Thomas is writing and directing that. The gag orders usually don’t bother me, although with one project in particular it’s kind of maddening.
“The process for The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever involved viciously hacking and slashing away as much of the book as I could. ‘Okay, here’s a page of really funny dialogue, but can I figure out a way to trim it down to two lines?’ I couldn’t be precious about anything, because even with what I thought was a brutal culling, my first draft was waaaayyyy too long for a goofy comedy about kids making a zombie flick. So, I got out my machete and chopped away even more. It’s still too long, but we’ll work that out as I enter the ‘working directly with the producer/directors on the rewrite’ stage.”
Strand said he never thinks about actors playing roles in his books.
“I never think about specific actors when I write a novel, and when people ask who I’d cast, I’m usually at a complete loss.” Strand said. “That didn’t change when I adapted my book into a screenplay. Other people will be making those decisions.”
Up next for Strand is a novel tentatively titled Hazel.
“Hazel is about a middle-aged woman with telekinetic powers that she can’t control,” Strand said. “She can make you raise your hand into the air … but she’ll probably break your arm in the process. If she gets emotional, very bad things can happen to the people around her. She’s learned to manage it through prescription medication and by basically staying away from other human beings as much as possible. Enter a desperate hit man, his pregnant girlfriend, and a scam so cruel that no amount of pills can mute Hazel’s reaction.
“There’s not a publication date yet, but I will narrow it down to ‘reasonably soon.’ Beyond that, I’m being tight-lipped about other forthcoming projects. I’ll say that one of them will make long-time fans happy, and another will be something completely different from me. I do have a specific publication date in mind, and I may spring these upon the world with little or no advance notice! Beware!”
Since Horror Tree is a site that supports writers with markets, publicity, and writing advice, I asked Strand if he can offer any tips to writers.
“That’s a really tough question because self-publishing has opened up a completely different path to success,” Strand said. “Twenty years ago, I could stand behind a podium and say, ‘First, you need to find an agent,’ and nobody would scream ‘Liar! There are other ways to go about it!’ It’s not even just about what works best for a specific author. I’m a hybrid author; I do both traditional and self-publishing, so it’s about what works best for a specific book! It’s extremely difficult to give any kind of useful advice without actually talking to people about what they want out of their career.
“But I’m not gonna wuss out on your interview question. One piece of advice that is perhaps even more relevant now is ‘Don’t be in a hurry to be published!’ I was in a hurry to be published, but I didn’t have a choice. The gatekeepers said ‘Nope, not yet!’ It horrifies me to think that today’s options, where I can finish a book and people can buy it a few hours later, might have been available way back when I only thought I was producing publishable work. You can’t imagine the crap I would’ve put out into the world.
“So, don’t be in a hurry. Practice novels are totally cool. There’s no shame in your first novel never being published. There’s no shame in your first ten novels never being published. Like a sport or a musical instrument, you’ve gotta practice to get good at it!”
Interview questions for Alison Littlewood put by Alyson Faye
I recently met up with Alison Littlewood at the UK Ghost Story Festival at the Derby Quad, where she was on the panels and talking about her latest novel, the seasonal chiller, Mistletoe. I’ve been reading Alison’s fiction for over 8-9 years now, and remember her début thriller, A Cold Season, coming out in 2012 and being prominently displayed in all the W. H. Smiths, as a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation. I’d been following Alison’s short stories in magazines like Black Static as well and downloading them onto my Kindle, like Fogbound From 5 (published 2011). So, I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed.
Q:- Hello Alison. Could we start off by you telling us something about yourself, please?
Hello! I’m a writer of fiction, of the dark and often a little weird variety. I live in Yorkshire with my partner and two dogs in an old and wonky house, am slightly obsessed with fountain pens and other assorted stationery, have a growing collection of books on weird history and folklore, and am alarmingly attached to semicolons.
Q:- What were your favourite books/authors growing up? And how important was visiting the local library to you?
I read anything and everything growing up! I started off with a huge love of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I cried buckets over The Little Mermaid, but loved it even more because it could make me cry. Then came years of Enid Blyton and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Later I read really widely, though I used to borrow all my brother’s Stephen King books and discovered James Herbert too.
The local library was really important to me. I still remember weekly trips with my mother. There was a huge old world map printed on the wall in the children’s section, and it felt like that – being let loose into a whole world of stories.
Q:- Did you always want to be a writer? Or did there come a turning point when you knew, ‘Yes, this is the time?’
I think that quietly, I always had a secret dream of a book with my name on the cover. But for a long time I thought of writing as something other people did. Stephen King’s book, On Writing, was a big inspiration to at least give it a go, so I joined a local creative writing class to force myself into it. I went on from there, and just kept writing and learning all I could, mainly because I loved it, but then I started to have short stories published and eventually decided it was time to try writing a novel.
Q:- Have you always written dark/supernatural horror fiction?
Pretty much from the beginning, yes. I tried different things at first, but quickly discovered that it was the darker ideas that got my fingers tingling to get to the keyboard. It was odd really because I still read really widely at that point, but I got drawn more and more into the genre as a reader too because of the direction my writing took.
Q:- Do you read in that genre too? Which authors and books stand out for you? Or have influenced you?
I increasingly immersed myself in the genre as I went along. Partly that was inspired by other genre people – I can still remember being at an event and folk having a really in-depth conversation about Cthulhu, and I’m like, ‘What?’ So I wanted to plug the gaps in my knowledge, but also I fell in love with the genre more and more, so naturally turned to it in my reading. I love John Ajvide Lindqvist, Joe Hill, Michele Paver, Graham Joyce and many, many others. Priya Sharma, Nathan Ballingrud, Angela Slatter and Paul Tremblay are writing stunning short fiction. Some of the books I’ve enjoyed recently are Tim Lebbon’s Eden, The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher and Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley.
Q:- How do you structure your writing day?
Mainly I make sure my two Dalmatian dogs are happy, then I begin! I take them for a good walk, which wakes me up and gets them to sleep, so I can have some peace to sit down in the study. I get any bits and bobs done before lunch, then a big block of work in the afternoon. Or plenty of banging my head against the wall, depending on how it’s going.
Q:- Is it pen/paper or PC? Coffee or tea? Music on or off? Study or shed where you write?
Pen and paper for notes – preferably fountain pens, which are just luscious – but a laptop for drafting. Perhaps oddly, I often use a Kindle for editing too, at least once I’m onto the later stages. The reading part of the process feels more natural that way, then I can use my short notes as a guide to make the actual changes on the computer. It saves printing out reams of paper too.
I work in my study, which I love. I decorated it and built the desk and sit there surrounded by bookish things. As for the rest, I’m a tea and quiet kind of person.
Q:- You’ve written an impressive number of novels and short stories. Do you have a preference for the short or longer form? Are you more comfortable with one or the other? Do you plan for both, i.e. are you a planner or a pantser?
I’d have to come down on the side of the longer form, though it’s tricky because short stories are just so much fun. You can try different things – various settings and voices – in a short space of time, and even if it doesn’t work, there’s not too much lost. Novels are a deeper, more intense experience, and sometimes horribly frustrating to work through, but the pay-off is a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of it.
Q:- My personal favourite of your novels is the Victorian Gothic The Crow Garden (pub. Oct 2017). Do you have a favourite amongst your novels/short stories? And if so, why?
I loved writing both my Victorian Gothic tales, so that’s kind of you to say! My favourite is probably the earlier one, The Hidden People, just because it uses some of the dark fairy changeling lore that I adore. Plus, I was part way through writing that book when I realised that the situation in the little village of Halfoak was going to be more complex and wide-ranging than I had thought. It surprised me, and I love it when that happens. A similar thing happened with my latest, Mistletoe, where one of the characters very much took the reins towards the end.
Q:- Mistletoe, published in October by Jo Fletcher Books, is your latest novel. Landscape plays a significant part in your novels, as it does in this one. I was struck by the snowy isolation of Maitland Farm. Is it based on a particular area or farm you know? Or even your own home, which you describe on your blog as ‘a house of creaking doors and crooked walls’?
My own house is, worryingly, more like the one in The Unquiet House, apart from the actual ghosts anyway! I do tend to set my books in Yorkshire because that’s where I live and I’m familiar with it and its folk and the way people talk and so on. Maitland Farm is an amalgam of various old farmhouses I’ve been inside or just seen dotted around the more dank corners of the countryside. I did have a photo of one old farmhouse in front of me while I wrote, which I lifted from a website of houses for sale in Yorkshire. It was just my image of Maitland Farm. Weirdly, I can’t find it now, though I do wonder what the people who bought it might have thought of it all.
Q:- Mistletoe travels back in time to the Victorian era and you also weave in folkloric traditions to do with mistletoe (which I didn’t know and found interesting). Again, did you do research for this?
Yes, I did plenty of research, both into the folklore I used and the history of the Christmas season, which is also threaded through the novel. I do feel that if I’m going to use folklore or history in a story, I have to use it faithfully, even though I’m writing fiction. In the case of Mistletoe some of the tales behind the plant came from different regions, but I found ways of working that into the text and having some kind of logic behind its being there. Simply inventing that aspect of the content would have felt all wrong to me.
Q:- How long did it take you to write the book?
I actually wrote the novel pretty quickly and handed it in during 2018, doing much of the spadework in the early part of the year when the spirit of Christmas wasn’t too distant a memory and we had plenty of snow flurries to help with the description. It was just too late to get the novel out that year, though, so it was scheduled for October 2019, which gave plenty of time for further editing. As a result, I’m beginning to formulate a theory that editing takes every bit as long as you allow for it!
Q:- Did you have any input into the cover design – which to me, seemed to make the mistletoe appear both organic and carnivorous? Certainly not the cosy image we usually have relating to kisses under the mistletoe.
I did put some ideas forward, but the credit for that really has to go to the brilliant team at Jo Fletcher Books! They made it look deliciously striking and moody, and I love the palette of colours they used.
Q:- You write about horror and scary things – so, what scares you?
Lots of things. People tend to assume that horror writers are like the monster in the closet, when we’re really the child cowering under the duvet. Mainly, I guess, the big questions of death and loss. A lot of the time, though, horror writing is really about love, because it’s when you love something that you fear losing it the most. I do think that writing about such things helps you work through what you feel about them and how you’d face them, so it offers catharsis too, for both reader and writer.
Q:- What films have you enjoyed watching lately? And music? Do you prefer gigs or theatre or films?
I enjoy the odd gig or trip to the theatre, though I prefer films. The Silence, the movie made of Tim Lebbon’s novel, was awesome. (available to watch on Netflix).
I recently saw Brightburn, which was brilliant – high-concept and yet character-driven at the same time. My favourite film is Pan’s Labyrinth. I love the choice it offers the viewer at the end – it pretty much makes you decide if you believe in magic. It’s just beautiful. Tale of Tales is amazing too, it’s just visually stunning and yet grotesque. I’d love to visit some of the places it was filmed; they deliberately chose locations that don’t look quite real. I’m rambling now, aren’t I. Sorry!
Q:- What are you currently working on? (As much information as you can give.)
I’m currently editing a novel length version of my novella, Cottingley. As its name suggests, The Cottingley Cuckoo revolves around the incident of the Cottingley fairies, which were famously supposed to have been caught on camera near Bradford by two young girls. Events escalated after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in. It’s a fascinating incident, though of course the image of the fairies presented didn’t match up to the rather darker tales of the little folk I’ve read so much about. So my story involves fairies that are rather less sweet and gauzy and any encounters with them have rather darker consequences.
Q:- What publications do you have coming out next? Your work often appears in horror or dark fiction anthologies. I noticed on Amazon that you have a story appearing in Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales due out in March 2020 alongside Neil Gaiman and the wonderful Angela Slatter, whose work I love. Can you tell us something about that project, please?
Sure! I was lucky enough to be invited to submit, and the theme was a cracker – new fairy stories involving a curse. I’d been reading Magical Folk, a book about fairy legends from around the UK, and one set on the Shetlands really caught hold of my imagination, so I wound my story about that. The editors, Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, fortunately liked it. I’m in great company and the cover looks gorgeous, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing the finished book.
It’s a nice time for upcoming anthologies, actually – I’m also looking forward to Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Folk Horror and Shadows and Tall Trees Volume 8 by Michael Kelly, (due out on 3 March, 2020) plus a couple of other lovely projects I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about yet.
Q:- I am a huge fan of zombie movies and shows, from del Toro’s fab TV series, The Strain, to World War Z, the British, 28 Days, to B movies like Rezort Z and the old Val Lewton’s B I walked with a Zombie. If it’s got zombies in it – I’m there.
In 2015 you wrote Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now, set in Stephen Jones’ ZA universe. Was this a natural sideways move for you into another type of horror? Something you’d always wanted to have a go at? Do you enjoy zombie films?
It wasn’t a natural step as such – Steve simply asked me if I’d like to write a novel set in the ZA world he’d created, and I thought it would be a massive dose of fun! I’d already written a short piece for one of the ZA mosaic novels, so it was a progression from that. I’d also set plenty of short stories overseas, in places I’d visited, so this was a great opportunity to do that with a novel. It’s about zombies invading a Mexican hotel, with plenty of mayhem but also hopefully some touching human stories, along with a good dose of Mayan lore. There are a few japes in it too, and some tips of the hat to various disaster or adventure movies for the sharp-eyed to spot. It turned out to be just as I’d expected – huge fun, and Steve was great to work with.
As for zombie films – I watch ’em, though I’m not an aficionado! I rather like the ones with a bit of comedy running through them – my approach to zombies seems naturally a bit tongue-in-cheek. So Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead would be more my thing.
Thank you Alison.
Thank you Alyson! ☺
Twitter :- Ali_L
Amazon author’s page:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alison-Littlewood/e/B005VO5DJI
Interview with Alec Cizak, publisher of Pulp Modern
It was an era of bigger-than-life heroes, imaginative villains, sexy sirens, and hard-boiled detectives. The public consumed pages and pages of adventure, horror, and tantalizing mystery. No subject was too lurid or sensational. Pulp Fiction magazines teased readers in the first half of the 20th Century and the genre got its name from the rough, low-quality paper it was printed on. Alec Cizak has brought some of this literary daring back with his magazine Pulp Modern, and agreed to talk with me about his passion and publication. You can find the current issue, Pulp Modern: Tech Noir for sale now on Amazon. It is a special edition of futuristic crime stories in collaboration with the crime fiction journal Switchblade.
AF: What do you do as a day job?
AC: I teach lit and composition to pay the bills. I’m lucky to have a wife with a much more marketable skill. Between her salary and the pittance my salary as a part time professor provides, we don’t have to live on the street. I wish I made my money writing pulp fiction, but I was born at the wrong time in history for that!
AF: What motivated you to start up your small press?
AC: I started publishing Pulp Modern because I didn’t see any journals at the time that brought the major genres together. I also didn’t see any big-time publications publishing riskier stories, so I felt there was a need for a market that could take chances since no advertising dollars were on the line. That’s not a slam on the majors, by the way. I understand they are beholden to advertisers who may not want to be associated with gut-honest stories about junkies, pimps, and hookers. As time went on and the bulk of the original underground pulps that were big at the end of the last decade and the beginning of this decade (Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, Twist of Noir, Crime Factory, Pulp Metal, etc.) either folded or became much more low-key, I continued publishing Pulp Modern because it provided a place for new writers to get their work in print. I suppose it’s become something like a farm team in baseball. Writers get their work in Pulp Modern and then move on to get agents and contracts with the Big Five and all that good stuff. Of course, now we seem to be in a silver age for this movement, with journals like Switchblade, EconoClash Review, Tough, and Broadswords and Blasters providing a new generation of markets.
AF: How long have you been publishing and how many anthologies have you produced?
AC: I started publishing the work of other writers in 2010, at a blog called All Due Respect. That was taken over by Chris Rhatigan when I started Pulp Modern. Rhatigan, of course, has turned ADR into an independent powerhouse. To date, I’ve published fifteen editions of Pulp Modern–a first run of ten issues that ended in 2016, and a second (and current) run that started in 2017 when I asked Richard Krauss (publisher of The Digest Enthusiast) to take over art direction duties. The results have been stunning.
AF: Is there any profit margin?
AC: Nope. This is, financially, a losing venture. The recent Tech Noir issue cost about six hundred dollars to produce. It’s generated about fifty dollars in sales and I doubt that number will even double. This is a labor of love. The independent pulp fiction community has had lags over the last ten years or so, moments where there were almost no markets for new writers, and I’ve gone through periods where I thought I would quit, but enough people would write to me and insist I keep Pulp Modern going that I gave in every time and got back to it. There are many, many writers out there. Some of them are really good and they don’t have connections in the publishing world. A journal like Pulp Modern is there to make sure those unheard voices are heard.
AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?
AC: Funny you should ask. I’m expanding Uncle B. Publications to a “regular” book publisher. I will be working with David Cranmer (Beat to a Pulp) to produce a nice, single-volume collection of all the Drifter Detective novellas. I’m also putting together several charity anthologies, including a collection called Naptown Noir that will benefit the Indiana Literacy Association. Call me naive, stupid, or optimistic, I believe a population that reads is a population that thinks and that, more than anything, will turn this world back in a positive direction.
Jonathan Lambert is the founder and editor of Jolly Horror Press, and has been known to pen a horror story or two himself. His third anthology Accursed will be released December 10th, and if you love stories that mix comedy and horror, this compilation has dark scary moments featuring cursed items. Each story may lead you down some dark alleys, but then surprise you with some laugh-out-loud moments. I contributed a story to this anthology and was impressed with the time and attention Lambert paid to his edits and revisions. I can’t wait to read the entire book. In the meantime, I had some questions for him about the indie anthology business and his role as a publisher.
AF: What do you do as a day job?
JL: Interesting question. Truth be told, I like to keep my day job separate from my role as publisher at Jolly Horror Press, and even my writing. In my experience, people sometimes begin to act odd or different once they find out a coworker writes or publishes horror. God forbid the little old lady a few offices away grabs one of our books and starts reading about incubi and witch orgies, or some other risqué story in one of these anthologies. She’d never look at me the same, or she’ll never leave me alone. LOL. So, I’d rather avoid that all together If I can.
I’ll tell you a little though. I’m a senior executive at a US Federal Government agency. I lead a very large program (~2.5 billion dollars) to modernize aging computer systems over the next ten years. I work in Downtown DC near all the monuments and museums and I have a 2.5 hour commute each way, every day. That doesn’t leave me a lot of time for the publishing and writing business. That’s what the weekends are for.
AF: What motivated you to start up your small press?
JL: The genre I write is horror/comedy. Short stories. The long days I put in at the office aren’t very conducive to writing longer works at this time (maybe something I’ll do when I retire.) For many years I would submit these stories to other anthologies. I had a good bit of success, yet horror/comedy stories are difficult to place. Most anthologies want pure horror. I also sold a lot of stories for peanuts. I think 3 dollars for a 5,000-word story was the lowest. I also noticed how so many publications no longer pay at all. They pay through ‘exposure’ but if they aren’t well marketed, the exposure is limited.
After a few years of experience selling short stories to anthologies, I just decided that I could do a better job. Provide better customer service, and be more author friendly. I could also create a press that is dedicated to horror/comedy. Finally, these stories could have a home. I just needed the name, and one day Jolly Horror Press just popped in my head. The rest is history.
AF: How long have you been publishing and how many anthologies have you produced?
JL: I started Jolly Horror Press about two years ago. Purchased the domain name, developed the website myself, got some legal advice, had a logo created, and put out the call for our first anthology, “Don’t Cry to Mama.”
While the stories were coming in, I decided to put out a collection of my own work, all horror/comedy short stories, called “Betwixt the Dark & Light”, as all the exclusive rights had expired.
“Don’t Cry to Mama” came shortly after. We got a great response. Some really great stories. It was supposed to be horror/comedy, but we’ve found that not many people actually WRITE horror/comedy either. So for now, we accept both. However, funny horror stories will always be the ones we accept first. And in one of our next anthologies, “Coffin Blossoms,” we’ll only accept horror/comedy. Might be a great story but if it doesn’t make us chuckle…
Before that though, we will release our third anthology, “Accursed,” in December. It’s an anthology where each story is about some kind of cursed item. Again, both pure horror and horror/comedy.
I’m trolling the alphabet. “Accursed”; “Betwixt the Dark & Light”; “Coffin Blossoms”; “Don’t Cry to Mama”. Not sure what the one after that will be called, but you can bet it will start with an “E”.
AF: Is there any profit margin?
JL: For now, no. An anthology generally consists of 20-25 stories. We usually pay $25 per story. That amount is the minimum sale price to qualify for Horror Writer’s Association membership. We thought that was a good thing to do for authors. If we purchase 25 stories at 25 dollars, that’s a cost of $625. Throw in a cover for minimum $200, and a marketing budget ($500), and costs for supplemental editing and other things, it easily costs about $1,500 minimum to make an anthology. And we do our own editing and formatting or it would cost even more.
We generally price our print books for $12.99. Amazon takes 40% of that, leaving $7.79. But then, they subtract the print price of the book (depends on number of pages, mainly). Jolly Horror Press books have a particular style and format that I really value. I could make the print price cheaper by using smaller fonts and cramming things together, but this is a labor of love. I won’t sacrifice quality for profit. So, from the $7.79, they subtract the print cost which for “Don’t Cry to Mama” was about $4.98. This leaves an actual profit of $2.81 per sale.
Ebooks are about the same. If we price them at $3.99, Amazon takes a 30% royalty leaving $2.79 as profit.
So, we need to sell around 600 copies to come close to breaking even. We are getting close with “Don’t Cry to Mama” but haven’t quite reached it yet.
Marketing costs soon have diminishing returns. After a few months, sales begin to drop off. They pick up again when a new anthology is released though. So, in the long run, who knows?
I used the words “Labor of Love” earlier, and that’s true. I don’t care if our books are profitable. I’d love it, of course, but it’s not going to stop us from producing quality anthologies. I do have that day job, you know?
AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?
JL: I’d like to keep going until we have 10 or 15 anthologies out there, and then turn Jolly Horror into movie production company. You know how you watch a horror movie and see “Blumhouse Productions” or “Ghost House Pictures” in the beginning credits? Well, with any luck, one day you’ll see “Jolly Horror Productions” at the beginning of a horror/comedy movie
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 Illstrator 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: For those that are unfamiliar with ‘ Last Blood ‘ would you mind explaining for them the story/concept, some of its main characters, along with a little on their backstory and/or anything else you think would help to inform those who are unfamiliar with the series?
BC: After zombies take over the Earth, vampires must protect the last surviving humans so they can live off 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 times 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 shelves these days, what is it you think sets yours apart from the rest, besides the obvious vampire angle? (In other words is there anything else you can add or share that you believe helps to catch the attention of those folks being distracted by the Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies, Evil Dead etc.?
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 about yourself a bit, such as your background in comics and anything else to help inform those of us 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: Are any of the characters inspired 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 Matheson (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 me the special partnership 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/exposure?
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 where all 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: Will you be collecting the books into a trade paperback form? If so, do you have an idea about when it should be available and some outlets that fans can look for it at?
BC: The first graphic novel will be out in either March or April  And again, their local comic book shop.
JDI: Also have you considered setting up a place on your website or some other type of way to raise donations in case you do decide to make the ‘Last Blood’ film yourself?
BC: Obviously, yes. It would be pointless to start doing that until we know for sure that we’re going to make it ourselves, though, which may never happen, since I hope to sell the script for a giant sum of money in the next few months.
JDI: Tyler [Mane] just happens to be an ex-wrestler and although he isn’t short and stout like the Rage character he could most definitely play 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 Sabretooth. 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.
Ruschelle – Great to have to you back here at The Horror Tree! Now you are the interviewee instead of the interviewer sharing your choice bones and tender meaty pieces of yourself with us. So, let’s take a bite, shall we?
Fates’ Fury, your newest title to be released << squee >> gives us a taste of an apocalypse with a supernatural slant. While writing the End of Days, did it bring about any real fears? The end of everything we know can be a truly horrific prospect, even for a writer.
Liz – If writing an apocalypse doesn’t scare you, then you’re probably not doing it right! In Fates, the fear comes from the absolute lack of control mankind has over what’s happening to them. On one hand, we have mother nature wreaking havoc (with a little help from the Fates), and on the other hand, we have supernatural entities killing people left, right and center. I think situations where there is no discrimination, no way to guarantee your safety, or the safety of your loved ones, are the most terrifying.
Ruschelle – Luckily, we are not in the throes of an apocalypse…that we know of…
So, what inspired Fates’ Fury?
Liz – It was an idea that niggled at me for a while before I started writing it. I’ve always been a huge ancient history/mythology nerd, and I found myself wondering what the gods of old would think of the world today. In all the time that’s passed since they were worshipped, how far have we really come as a race? Sure, there’s been technological advancement etc. but how have we changed or grown as a species? We’re still hurting and killing each other. So, what if the Fates’ decided to call it? Time’s up people, you’ve used up your last chance!
Ruschelle – The cover art for Fates’ Fury was created by none other than Andrew Butcher! Was this a collaboration or a fabulous surprise from Andrew after reading your offering?
Liz – A bit of a collaboration. I gave him a rough idea of what I was hoping for and he took it from there. He’d come up with a few designs, but we both loved this one. He also designed the cover for After Dark for me, so I’m lucky to have such a talented hubby!
Ruschelle – Your pen drips with the blood of many genres – horror, mythology, romance etc. Which genre do you find yourself splattering the pages with more often than not?
Liz – Horror, for sure. The vast majority of my work is in the vein of horror/dark fantasy.
Ruschelle – If you could have Fates’ Fury developed into a major motion picture, which famous actors would you choose to play your characters?
Liz – I love this question – what author doesn’t? There’re far too many characters to cast them all for you, but here’s some of the main players and who I’d love to see cast in their roles:
Jonah Sands – Max Irons
Tristan Carter – James Franco
Ava Carter – Sophia Bush
Alex Carter – Tom Hanks
Mallory Carter – Gillian Anderson
Zeus – Eric Bana
Isis – Zoe Saldana
Enki – Naveen Andrews
Hades – Jared Leto
Charon – Paul Bettany
Ruschelle – You have recently signed on with publicist Mickey Mikkelson from Creative Edge. Sweet! What does this mean for author Liz Butcher?
Liz – Yes! It’s an exciting development and Mickey is proving to be a wonderful mentor in this new endeavor. Having a publicist means further exposure and opportunities and I already have a number of interviews/blog posts/podcasts lined up. It’s taking me out of my comfort zone—but I’m grateful for it. I plan to make the most of it!
Ruschelle – Last year you released your collection of short stories entitled, After Dark. Are there any stories from your collection that may one day receive the ‘novel treatment’?
Liz – Potentially. I’ve received some great feedback from readers about some of the stories they’d love to see expanded on. Dorcha Scath is a popular request, as are Amber, Sail Away and Gethen. As Amber and Sail Away are the shorter of the group, I’d probably look at expanding them first.
Ruschelle – Which writing process do you prefer, the energetic fervor of crafting short stories or the slow burn penning of novels?
Liz – Now, I would have to say the slow burn of penning a novel. It was a surprising challenge making the shift, to be honest. There’s so much more you have to consider when writing something that’s novel length as opposed to a short story, but you also have the freedom to explore more of your storyline and get to know your characters on a deeper level.
Ruschelle – Where did you mine the raw material of your stories to polish into shiny baubles?
Liz – My overactive imagination, primarily! Some come from strange dreams, others are just random ideas and concepts that popped into my head at one time or another. I actually have a box full of scrawled-on index cards, with each card representing another story idea.
Ruschelle – Are there any ‘taboo’ scenes or topics that you refuse to include in your writing? For example, graphic sex or gore?
Liz – No, not really. If I felt any of those topics were essential to the story or to the character, then I’d absolutely go there. In saying that, though, I wouldn’t include it just for the sake of it either.
Ruschelle – What is the one piece of writing advice that was suggested to you that you NEVER use because it was awful advice?
Liz – Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve received any bad advice!
Ruschelle – If you could do research for a project, where would it be? For example- a famous haunted house, a long-deserted disaster area or a sacred desert etc…
Liz – The list would be endless…absolutely all the haunted or deserted buildings and castles, tracking ley-lines and petroglyphs or researching an archaeological dig. The Gran Telescopio Canarias or the Subaru telescope, or even the Hadron Collider—I could go on and on, haha!
Ruschelle – You received your degree in psychology. The human psyche is so interesting and sometimes scary. Has your knowledge of the mind played a role in any of your characterizations?
Liz – I’ve always been fascinated by the psyche, the endless possibilities of our brains and the vastness that is the subconscious. My knowledge of the mind and of personality types and traits would certainly play a role in my writing, though I don’t think it’s something I actively sit down and process.
Ruschelle – What comes first for you, plot or characters or title?
Liz – It’s always the concept first for me, which becomes the plot and the characters pop up as I go along. I might have a general idea of the main character(s) at inception, but they tend to develop as the plot does.
Ruschelle – Criticism, writers need to grow a tough Godzilla-esque hide to repel all the negativity. How do you handle criticism?
Liz – I just view criticism as an opportunity for growth. I don’t want to be molly-coddled and told something is wonderful when it’s not. I’m always open to constructive criticism for this reason. One of the many things I love about my editor (and talented author) Kathrin Hutson, is she never shies away from telling me something isn’t good enough, or to rewrite a section because she knows I can do better. That way when she gets excited about a line or a passage, then I know I’ve really nailed it.
When it comes to querying it can be daunting watching the rejections come in, but you can’t let it upset you. It’s all part of the process.
Ruschelle – Do you have any ‘Liz Butcher’ signature lines or characters that seep their way into most of your stories/books?
Liz – Not so far—or at least, not that I’ve noticed. But I do like to drop subtle pieces into my work. For example, the name of a character or a place might have some special link or meaning to the story.
Ruschelle – The perfect title can be a bit elusive. How do you choose your titles for your works? Do faerie deliver them to you in dreams?
Liz – Perhaps they do! The short story titles came to me fairly easily, and After Dark was the result of some quick and fruitful brainstorming. Fates’ Fury was a longer process…and the third title!
Ruschelle – Your newfound fans need to know where they can find all things Liz Butcher on the www. Let’s help them out!
Liz – Absolutely! And thanks for having me.