K. Brandon Wilt is a creator who uses both visual media and the written word. He is the creator of ‘Six in the Mourning’ which is a webcomic that is “a supernatural road trip story of six friends dealing with a shared loss.” Today, he’s taken some time to sit down with us and chat about his work and various projects.
Full disclosure, Wilt also designed our new Trembling With Fear logo and if you’re in search of having an illustration created you should check out his Facebook portfolio!
Horror Tree: Brandon, first off thank you for joining us today! As ‘Six in the Mourning’ is your most prominent work, without giving too much away could you tell us a little about the plot?
K. Brandon Wilt: Thank you so much for having me! Absolutely! The story opens a few weeks after the death of Dawn. Her brother Alek is consumed with grief and sets out for his family’s cabin in the woods to suffer alone. Fearing for his safety (and possibly others) his girlfriend Lynn along with uninvited friends Nick and Darren go after him. On again/off again couple Ben and Christine unfortunately are stuck riding together. You find out quickly that they aren’t the only ones following, an unrevealed sinister force is along for the ride. The entire story is essentially broken down into four sections highlighting each group and different tones as they travel. Although these characters are dealing with a deep loss and the supernatural, the story isn’t all doom and horror. There’s a lot of light-hearted moments between these young twentysomethings and their mix of personalities and dynamics. At the core it’s about this group of six friends trying to get through a surreal painful time. It’s like the Big Chill on the road infused with action and the paranormal. If their pain of mourning wasn’t bad enough, it’s about to get much worse.
HT: Did any real-life experiences factor in to crafting this tale?
BW: Yes, a good friend of mine committed suicide when I was roughly the age of these characters. This story was influenced by that. How everyone mourns differently. How it almost seems like whatever overwhelming pain or suffering that one person has doesn’t die with them, but it’s distributed around to others. It’s there in the corner of your eyes darting behind tombstones. Reality becomes surreal and your mind desperately grasps at putting back some sense of order following a tragedy. This graphic novel mixes that heaviness with random ridiculous road trips with friends. Traveling together brings out a certain sense of honesty. Trapped in a vehicle for hours together good or bad, whether you’re going for fun or for something serious I think is an interesting time on its own. This story is melding those things. Plus I just love horror and comics, so it seemed like the obvious way to knit together the story.
HT: What inspired you to put ‘Six in the Mourning’ together?
BW: Having had a somewhat darker disposition, I wanted to tell a story of getting through something hard when it seems impossible. When all seems completely lost. This story is about getting through an emotional time and how a good circle of friends can help. To tie that to horror or a ghost story really I found very appealing. I wanted to try to capture that feeling not only with the story itself, but also in the way it’s presented. It’s designed so the reader is working things out along with the group’s own sense of unsettling confusion. The characters just naturally developed and watching their interaction as they travel is what’s important to me. Creatures, abilities, and what I felt were cooler aspects I wanted to incorporate are just the vehicles to move the story along and set the feel and tone for their surreal almost pocket-like universe they journey through.
HT: How was it to work with other creatives to bring this story to life? Was this a collaborative process or did you more direct how things moved forward?
BW: I have an annoying habit of deputizing or recruiting people for my random crazy projects. If you foolishly tell me you’re interested in something, I’ll most likely find something for you to do. Like a monstrous (yet loveable!) dictator. Although it’s my story, characters, and pencils I’ve been incredibly fortunate to coerce (to their dismay) some amazingly talented and skilled people to bring this to being (as opposed to just a huge stack of pages sitting next to my desk.)
I will go over the page layouts and story with Jay Heptner and without fail he’ll produce dialogue for these characters that are spot on perfect. When I first met him forever ago I off handedly mentioned to him a group of us were putting together an anthology, a way to showcase some of our work. Not knowing he was a writer he showed up later with a script for a project that would fit an entire graphic novel! Smart, layered, and funny work, Jay is an excellent writer.
Christopher Rehner volunteered to color to help get this project to the public. And although I told him I just wanted something simple to set the tone, he went all out and gave 110 percent on the chapters he worked on.
I recruited letterer extraordinaire Kurt Hathaway who’s worked for Marvel, DC, Extreme, and more companies than I can list after writer Dave Golightly’s stint on crafting word balloons for Book 1. Kurt also produced the teaser animation video. And I have to rely on my tech support Chaz York to help upload it all to the site, since I’m practically a Ludite.
I can’t thank everyone enough who worked on, assisted, supported, or listened to me prattle on talking about this. The list is huge since I’ve been working on this since the early 2000s (which is around when this story is set). I know they all dread my “are you making art or excuses?” texts and e-mails, but I do appreciate them all.
HT: What does the future hold for ‘Six in the Mourning’?
BW: The series is set to be seven issues collected as a graphic novel. But due to the unrestricted format of publishing on-line those issues are able to vary in length allowing the story to play out organically. I’m also able to pepper in little videos, animation, sketches, and notes to give more depth to the project. I’ve also sculpted full size Silent masks that may become available (along with putting together a six foot tall version for display, because that’s the kind of thing you do when you wake up crazy early like a maniac…). T-shirts should be available coming up. There are plans for the story Dawn was writing to be released. Possibly a one shot featuring Alek’s “lost time”. There’s also another part that occasionally starts scratching at the inside of my skull, but for now the focus is to complete the seven issue mini-series.
HT: What other projects do you currently have in the works or are you planning to bring to life?
BW: Six In The Mourning is the big one right now. Other than that I’ll find time for mostly creepy illustrations, commission pieces, random sculptures, and the occasional short horror story. With the art stuff and my comic shop Bent Wookee Comix, I’m always working on something. The shop has developed into a community of people not only celebrating comics, but also a meeting ground for creatives working on their own projects.
HT: Do you have any stories which you’ve been dying to tell that you could tease us with?
BW: I’ve always found short horror stories like what you’d find in Tales From The Crypt to be really interesting. Little morality tales featuring things I prefer drawing like creatures, demons, monsters, you know all the fun stuff! I like to be able to noodle around on just a few pages and not get tied into a big story.
HT: If you could work on any mainstream comic, which would it be and why?
BW: Since I’m more interested in drawing creatures, probably Ghost Rider or something like Werewolf By Night. I was always a Wolverine fan though, that would be fun. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Eric Powell’s The Goon, or James O’Barr’s The Crow have always been the types of things to inspire. Telling your own story with your own characters unrestricted to the type of genre. Just because it’s a comic book doesn’t mean it has to be super heroes. The medium is open to any kind art style or story you want to tell.
HT: What are you working on next?
BW: There’s plenty more Six In The Mourning to work on currently. I’ll fit in a short story or commission illustration, but that’s really the main focus. Maybe start an army for positive projects out of people who love comics. Dunno. I’m sure it’ll be something considered relatively impractical. Guess we’ll see.
HT: Thank you again for your time, If there is anything you’d like to showcase or share with our readers, please let us know now!
BW: Keep your eyes out for more Six In The Mourning. There are three of the seven issues available for free for a limited time at www.sixinthemourning.com with more updates coming soon. You can check out more of my projects, sketches, and work at “Art of K. Brandon Wilt” on Facebook and “bwilt_art” on Instagram. If you’re looking for funny books and cool collectibles, check out my shop Bent Wookee Comix in Johnstown, Pa. And I just wanted to thank you for having me do the logo for Trembling With Fear, you have so many amazing writers contributing!
Jen – Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me!
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Evan – I don’t see myself anyplace differently than I am now, from a creative perspective. Unless you’ve already made it, writers tend to keep churning out work without a particular goal. Most of this will never see the light of day. We keep going through the moves, regardless, for the usual nonsensical reasons, like scratching an itch. Basically, it’s a journey we’ve signed on to, but one that doesn’t generally change where we are on the map.
Jen – What would you be doing if you couldn’t be a writer/director?
Evan – I think the question boils down to not what alternative career path would I follow, because I have a day job, but what other creative outlet would I pursue? If the ideas stopped coming or I couldn’t find a way to articulate them, I’m sure I’d be driven into another medium like painting or origami or making soaps. People with a creative impulse will always find an outlet of some form.
Jen – If you could bring any mythical creature or character to life what or who would it be and why?
Evan – Funny you should ask, since I did recently finish a novel called Pauper King that features a slew of mythical creatures. It’s about a serial killer on the loose in the world of fairy tales. It doesn’t end well for most of our beloved characters. Hard to pick a favorite, but I enjoyed portraying the seven dwarves as filthy, foul-mouthed louses.
Jen – Where is the one place (or places) you can always find inspiration?
Evan – The news. The easy part is drawing inspiration for themes and plots. The hard part is avoiding being on the nose or too obvious about the source.
Jen – What is your favorite mode of transportation (real or not) and why?
Evan – There isn’t one. I don’t like moving.
Jen – If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be?
Evan – Get rid of the people. The rest is fine.
Jen – What is a typical day for you?
Evan – I do my day job, then spend time with my family. Writing usually is the result of insomnia.
Jen – What is your favorite thing to eat and drink while you are creating?
Evan – Caffeine tends to be an effective motivator. But really, I have so little time to create now that I’m usually doing it in my car over a break or in the early morning when everyone’s asleep. It would be weird to eat or drink.
Jen – What season best describes you? Why?
Evan – Fall. I’m cool like that.
Jen – What little thing always seems to make you happy?
Evan – Always happy when I discover some new kind of food. Never fails to amuse me.
Jen – Who would you most like to meet (alive or dead)? Why?
Evan – John Lennon. Obvious.
Jen – What have you written or done that you are most proud of?
Evan – I think for its scope and sheer number of ideas, Pauper King. I wanted it to be written from the perspective of someone living at the close of the 19th century, about life in the middle ages. The language needed to be perfectly accurate, so every word had to be researched to see when it came into common use. It was incredibly laborious and took over a year to write. Sorry, it was never published. In fact, agents and publishers lined up to let me know how unmarketable it was. Maybe some day…
Of works that are out there, my collection of short stories called Gone is Gone.
Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thank you for agreeing to “chat” with us today! First, tell us a bit about yourself.
A.G. – I’m always excited to chat with fellow horror fans. I guess I’ve always been a horror geek at heart. I love all things Halloween inspired and writing scary stories just comes naturally to me. Other than loving creepy things, I also have two tiny humans who keep me very busy and I also teach! I have written a four-book series called The Zombie Girl Saga and have written several short stories which I’m equally proud of. When I’m not writing, teaching or spending time with my family, you can always find me reading something, doodling or painting. Let’s see, what else can I share…I’m Canadian, I’m a bit of a goofball, I’m slightly obsessed with nail polish, all things Marvel Comics and Tim Burton too!
Selene – How long have you been writing, and why do you prefer (according to your bio) to write horror?
A.G. – I’ve been writing professionally for six years now, but writing has been part of my DNA from the start. I love crafting worlds and characters, I have pages and pages of short stories from my younger days and they weren’t great but they were fun. We all start somewhere right? I love horror because I’m the Halloween loving kid that never grew out of that phase. If you make me choose between watching Evil Dead for the 700th time or The Notebook, I’m going to pick Evil Dead every single time. I love the thrill of horror and sometimes the absolute absurdity of it. Life is all together too serious, so I welcome the absurd, the over-the-top, the thrill of the scare, I don’t really feel that with any other genre. Horror is my happy place as odd as that may sound.
Selene – What do you like to read, and who are some of your favourite authors?
A.G. – I like to read everything, I’m a bonafide bookworm. If someone recommends a book to me, I am always game to take a look. I don’t turn books away! That being said, I certainly have my favourites. I’m currently in love with V.E.Schwab, Paul Tremblay and Grady Hendrix. Some forever favourites are Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe and R.L.Stine, I feel these three have really influenced who I am as an author, it’s an odd mash-up, but if it’s your cup of tea, then we’re already best friends! Ha!
Selene – You work in almost every type of writing: novels, short stories, poetry, YA, and you even dabble in visual arts. What form of creative expression do you like best—I know it’s hard to choose, but say you had to give up all but one, which would it be?
A.G. – Oh wow! That’s a really hard question! I have a giant book filled with quickly written poems and a sketch book just as large with doodles, I think self expression is so important, even if it’s just for your eyes only. I would really hate to give up any, but gun to my head, I think I would need to keep short stories in my life, I love the quick build of suspense and either ending it with something completely shocking or leaving you wondering for ages. There’s a bit of magic in the art of the tease and short stories are just that.
Selene – Your website, poeticzombie.com, is full of zombies, and you mention that you love zombies. The (Trope? Genre? Archetype?) of “Zombie” has been popular for decades, and a few years ago there was a boom with The Walking Dead and other movies and TV shows. Why do you love zombies so much, and why do you think they have such mass appeal?
A.G. – I get asked this a lot, “why zombies?” I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea but they’re just so versatile. You have endless amounts of creativity with them. There’s the mindless flesh eaters, the infected, the cursed, the impossibly fast and strong, the immune, or my personal favourite the ones you sympathize with. I love that you can’t quite hate zombies, they used to be people, people that were loved, had families, had lives. People yell at their screens telling protagonists to “kill the zombies” but if that zombie was once your mom, or your brother, or your best friend, could you do it? That complexity speaks levels about being human, we can know the right answer but also disagree with it. Zombies will forever teach us about ourselves and what it really means to be human.
Selene – You also write about vampires, in your story “Aqua Vita,” from Another Beautiful Nightmare. How do you keep such well-traveled, well-known characters as zombies and vampires fresh?
A.G. – First of all, thank you! But if I’m being completely honest, a lot of it just comes from dreams or I guess most would call them nightmares. A lot of my dreams have monsters in them, but I think they simply represent deep seated fears. Writing these stories is therapeutic, I like to believe the dreams have meaning and maybe the stories seem fresh because there’s something “true” about them, or at least in my world.
Selene – Let’s talk about your series, Zombie Girl. What’s it about, how has it been received, and do you intend to write any more sequels? What can we expect?
A.G. – Zombie Girl was my first step into professional writing, it was my baby and I will always treasure it. The four-book saga was a labor of love and most readers I’ve interacted with have told me that it was hard to put down and that they found parts of it so very relatable. I wanted to create a zombie story like no other and I feel as though I really achieved that. The story follows Eve, a teen from a small town looking to escape and find a little adventure, she definitely gets more than she bargained for, and, as her character develops, we find out just how strong she truly is. I’m a big fan of comic books and I’ve always wanted to design a hero. Eve is a hero, a perfectly flawed one. I loved creating her, but her story is now complete. I’m happy with the ending and don’t want to spoil it. I’m currently working on a new series that will centre around the haunting of a small town, I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s quirky and weirdly wonderful and it’s really hard to leave that world behind when I stop writing.
Selene – Fun question. Who would your dream cast be, in a film version of Zombie Girl?
A.G. – I always cast my characters before I start writing, it’s a really fun part of the writing process and I always look forward to it. My dream team for Zombie Girl would be Sophia Bush as Eve, Jennifer Lawrence as Alex and Brandon Routh as Cam. I chose them all for very geeky reasons and I’m not the least bit ashamed! Heheheh.
Selene – I was amused to find your story, “Aqua Vita”, from Another Beautiful Nightmare, was set in Ottawa. As a Canadian, I like to set my stories in Canada (and not just because I’m lazy). How do you choose your settings?
A.G. – I am a very proud Canadian and I love to use places in Canada in my stories. It’s not just a write what you know, it’s more of a write what you love and I love where I live! I’ve noticed many films have been filmed in or around Toronto, but no one ever calls it Toronto! I say, why not? Anything that can happen in New York could also happen in Toronto, so I say we start putting Canada on the international map, make it part of the dialogue, it’s time!
Selene – Do you prefer to write about places you’ve been and lived/travelled, or do you like to personally research your locations? (And hooray for Google Earth—a homebody writer’s best friend!)
A.G. – I usually write about places I’ve been, it’s my way of travelling back to them. I always secretly hope that when I write about a location someone might be reading that part of one of my stories in that exact same spot!
Selene – My sister and I have an ongoing argument about (ABOOT) Canadian settings. She thinks that Canada is boring, and no one gives a crap about The Great White North, except as a joke. I think it’s the opposite. How do you make Canada—which can be boring—scary?
A.G.- I think boring just means unexplored potential, I’m currently digging into Canadian legends for my current WIP and there are some really freaky ones that have left me sleepless! The ghosts this country has, my goodness!
Selene – And one more question about being a Canadian writer. Every article I read about Canadian literature seems to be about how much Canadian literature really sucks and is really problematic. Yet all the actual writing I read by Canadians, whether it’s poetry or prose or non-fiction or what have you…is wonderful, especially by Canadian horror authors like Tony Burgess and Gemma Files. What do you think is wrong with Canadian stories and CanLit, or have you noticed this dissonance?
A.G. – I love Gemma Files and Margaret Atwood and Nancy Kilpatrick, I feel that Canadian authors have a lot to offer and yet I agree that they often get overlooked. I wonder if Canada is dismissed because people just don’t know enough about us. As you said earlier, Canada is usually the punch-line, something about polar bears and ice castles and whatever else people have dreamed up. Somehow it stuck, so maybe I just better work with it and create a horror story about zombie polar bears that attack during massive snow storms? Could be fun at least.
Selene – Your story “Poveglia: The Island of the Dead” from Beautiful Nightmares: Women of Horror Anthology features a pretty horrific view of an afterlife. Where do you get your ideas? The reason I ask is the horror of Poveglia isn’t that she’s a bad person being punished, but that two of Anna’s three crimes seem to be childish rudeness and terrible choices and selfishness, rather than outright malicious intent. Part of Anna’s lesson seems to be to remember there are consequences and a duty to act–if this is what sends us to hell, we’re all in trouble!
A.G – It came from a dream and little bit from an Italian legend and a little bit from Dante. I do think we create our own hell by not being able to forgive ourselves. Poveglia is terrifying in that Anna doesn’t really deserve any of it, I agree. The horror genre certainly plays that angle quite often. I do think that sort of fear is healthy, we should be afraid of becoming bad people, we should be afraid of losing our humanity, we should always work towards kindness.
Selene – Your poem “Queen of Corpses” from the Damsels Of Distress anthology is a reworking of Shakespeare’s play King Lear, with a focus on Cordelia. What inspired this poem, and why do you think authors like to rework old properties (Shakespeare, myths, fairy tales, etc.)? And speaking of Cordelia, as a Canadian did the Tragically Hip song have even a tiny bit to do with it?
A.G. – Ha! Who doesn’t love a good reworking of a classic, and who doesn’t love The Hip? I wasn’t thinking of the song at the time, but I will be now! I have always loved Shakespeare, he just does tragedy so well. Cordelia has stayed with me for ages, she’s one of those characters that haunt you because she was so pure of heart and it didn’t really do her any favours. I guess the injustice had me reeling and this poem was going to come about one way or another. I really just wanted her to have her revenge.
Selene – In addition to the writing and other creative projects you juggle, you’re a “mombie.” What do you do to focus your priorities and keep on track, so you can get work done?
A.G. – It’s hard, I’m sure any mombie in my position would say the same thing. Finding balance is difficult, I don’t always find it, in fact most of the week is dedicated to being the mombie of the house, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it. There will come a day where the kiddos won’t need me as much, so I’m just absorbing every adorable moment that I can! I try to set aside a couple of days a week to write something, even if it’s just a little bit. My poetry writing is still a daily thing, it’s something that’s mine, and it’s soothing.
Selene – Thanks again for agreeing to an interview. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about here?
A.G. – My absolute pleasure! Thanks for having me and for all the awesome questions! It’s been fun! I guess I would just like to end with, keep reading kids! Grow your world with words, every book can teach you something! *The More You Know Rainbow appears*
Ruschelle: Wonderful to have you in the Horror Tree Hot Seat. You are now part of an exclusive club! There are secret handshakes, a fun initiation (warning: don’t ever fall asleep…ever), and everyone’s favorite, human sacrifice! But before we choose your first victim, let’s get to know our newest member. You are a retired mime… I almost blackballed you for that tidbit, but you have a great moustache… so tell give us a glimpse into your days as a mime.
Josef: First off, the mustache thanks you. We both feel honored to be strapped down in the seat of honor.
Mime was a bit of a double-edged sword back in my day. Sure mimes were universally disliked, with attacks from surly penguins with olive pimento loaves, drunken college boys, and bored dads at the medieval festivals. But Mummenschantz was appearing on the Muppet Show, Robin Williams street mime films got out, and Shields and Yarnell had their own show on TV.
I did a lot of busking on street corners and performing at arts festivals. I got to be one of the official performers for Ameriflora, the flower event celebrating the five-hundred-year anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of America. Eager children swarming you can do as much damage as drunk who means you harm. I even got a starring role in Mime Legend a short film variation of I am Legend where the disease that ravages Earth turns the dead into mimes. I did all my own stunts.
What I brought from that experience was the ability to write through gesture and body language with no words. I learned how to read a crowd, how to improvise, and how to perform before an audience. All great skills for an author reading and book signing.
Ruschelle: Mimes…some people find them humorous while others find them scary. Kinda like clowns. They are supposed to be entertaining and enjoyable, yet they scare the hell out people. Horror goes together like peas and carrots, like band saws and body parts, like Josef Matulich and The Ren Faire at the End of the World. What is key to the perfection that is the combination of humor and horror?
Josef: Both Horror and Humor create an emotional response from dissonant images and actions. The circumstances are ginned up to created heightened emotions while at the same time an unconscious recognition that the threat and stakes are imaginary. That gives the audience permission to enjoy a dismemberment or a slip on a banana peel. If you attack a character with a knife-wielding maniac, that’s Horror. If the character is attacked by a mime with a four-foot powder puff, it’s Comedy. If your unlucky character has two flesh-eating squirrels run up his pants legs, that’s Horror/Comedy.
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Ruschelle: Evil Dead, Scream, Beetlejuice, Shaun of the Dead, just to name a few are horror movies with a humorous slant. What movies do you feel best represent the genre? Which are your favorites?
Josef: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Slither, and Fido, where zombies are kept as pets, are some of my modern favorites besides the ones you listed. The old school classics like Vincent Price’s Abominable Dr. Phibes, Madhouse, and Theater of Blood still hold up to viewings in the twenty-first century.
Ruschelle: Is there a book or movie that you recommend for those wanting to try their hand at that horror/comedy?
Josef: I cut my teeth on Frederic Brown’s Nightmares and Geezenstacks. He was an early practitioner of Flash Fiction and his stories could be either creepy, funny, or both.
Ruschelle: You are penning the Squirrel Apocalypse. Why squirrels? Do they use cool weapons like ninja stars… and sporks? Oh, please say yes…
Josef: The squirrels have no need for cool weapons, they are the weapons. Set in Northern California in the days before legalization, it is a wonderland of illicit pot farms, drug gangs, GMO killer squirrels, and plenty of dairy cattle to run down when the hybrid squirrels get the munchies. I co-opted a real-life radio station that in its day broadcast the movements of DEA agents to the local pot farmers. To have those broadcasts interrupted with warnings of swarms of killer squirrels was my personal indulgence.
Ruschelle: A little evil squirrely told me you are writing a play. A play from HELL! The squirrel can’t keep his trap shut. So, spill it.
Josef: The squirrel got it half right: I have a screenplay that has spent ten years in pre-production HELL. It was written for an actor who specializes in creature parts and included junkyard cyborgs, kids camping in the woods, and nerds vs. jocks. You should fricassee the squirrel.
I have had a couple of short plays produced locally. One was a sex-interrupting monster under the bed. The other was a pair of sentient gargoyles on a rooftop who only get suicidal fanboys to visit them. I’m ready for anyone who wants to put on another production.
Ruschelle: In a battle royale, who do you think will kick major ass, Ashy Slashy from the Evil Dead movies or Halloween’s Michael Meyers?
Josef: Ash was able to recreate the Industrial Revolution with a Buick and a college Chemistry book. He would win hands, well hand, down.
Ruschelle: You’re a make-up artist! Zombies and gory creatures would be awesome to see come to life. How did you get into creating men (and women) into monsters?
Josef: At about thirteen or so, my best buddy and I discovered mask-making and special effects make-up. We would hang out at his house and experiment with make-up, cotton, and liquid latex. I would frequently come home with fake acid burns or bloody gashes. It didn’t disturb my mother half as much as I wanted.
Ruschelle: Could you tell us about your favorite makeup? Oooh do you have a photo?
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Josef: One of my favorite make-ups was a demo where I turned my son into a Steampunk Zombie. The foam latex piece showed the gears that ran inside his head and the brass port for a winding key. He was a really big hit with the girls that year.
There was my most involved movie monster, Bob the Blob. It was an alien that connected up to the heads of students with its tentacles to pump chemicals into their brains that kept them tractable. Bob had an eyestalk that could be moved from side to side by internal wires, a breathing mechanism made from condoms and syringes and about a dozen six-foot long tentacles. The director Sheldon Gleisser is holding the tentacle and sucker mouth.
Ruschelle: Have any of your stories involved a deranged makeup artist whose cosmetics are cursed, causing his ghastly creations to become the real deal? Could be funny if they embellish their junk…
Josef: Not that, but one of my early role-playing supplements for the defunct NightLife property had a special effects guy who made up friends as monsters to go cruise bars and play with the minds of the drunken populace. As he discovered that monsters were real and they wanted to party too, he would include them in the crowd of bar crawling fake monsters.
Ruschelle: You write flash as well as short stories and novels. Of all of those, which do you prefer?
Josef: I like novels best, huge ridiculous stories that take at least two-hundred pages to wring all the weirdness out of them. I have to exercise extreme discipline to produce something as lean as a screenplay or RPG supplement. When I get bogged down with a larger project, I like to write a flash piece or two to cleanse the palate and get motivated again.
I feel that short stories are a penance for evil I have done in previous lives.
Ruschelle: The Arcanum Faire Series you penned looks fantastic. There is a non-Wiccan Witch, vegan Thanksgiving, power tools, sex (hubba hubba) and zombie bunnies! Tell us more.
Josef: Arcanum Faire is the classic story of Boy meets Witch, Boy loses Witch, Witch’s Ex hospitalizes Boy with a sex-summoned invisible tentacle demon. The hero Marc is a tool-obsessed prankster sent to build a renaissance faire in a town overrun by witches, primordial demons, and reanimated roadkill. The locals quickly discover that he has certain attributes useful to magick-users. He’s convinced everyone is as mad as his recently deceased schizophrenic brother.
Things devolve naturally as Marc discovers he can whack supernatural beings with a shovel (cold iron), that he and his Wiccan love Brenwyn can perform accidental sex magick, and that a ren faire full of witches, cultists, and walking wounded seeking a miracle generate a butt load of psychic energy.
It has a little bit of everything for the reader. It has fighting, and magick, and fencing— both with foils and barbed wire. It has romance, and sex (though not graphic enough for some tastes) and some relationships my characters still haven’t figured out yet.
I just got the rights back to these books at the beginning of the year. I should soon have the first book available, self-published with a great new cover by the comic artist Seth Lyons. All three should be done by the end of the year.
Though there are only three books, I’ve left myself enough of a window to write a fourth. If I live that long.
Ruschelle: What is scarier; zombie bunnies or zombie beavers? Have you seen the movie, Zombeavers?
Josef: I, unfortunately, have not yet seen Zombeavers, but I have seen Zoombies and am still having PTSD incidents. I think the undead skinless bunnies and squirrels, along with a small herd of undead Angus cattle, could be far more horrifying if this weren’t a comedy. It’s hard to get people to laugh after a character has been disemboweled by dozens of great pointy teeth.
Ruschelle: To date, what is the writing project you’re most proud of?
Josef: The Ren Faire at the End of the World allowed me to have my bobcat-driving, demented ren faire performer Eleazar improvise his own version of Aragorn’s speech at Pellenor to inspire the rennies and jousters defending the faire against reanimated road-kill and meat puppets. I can’t see how I can outdo myself on that one.
Ruschelle: You have so many awesome interests. You are an avid costumer. Could you give us a little peek into that side of you?
Josef: My wife and I met because she had a costume that required custom pointed ears. Together we costumed plays, films and events for twenty years. For nearly a decade we provided costumed actors for movie openings like Harry Potter, LOTR, or the last Indiana Jones movie. I got to be both Snape and Indy.
Then, we opened The Alley Vintage & Costumes. It’s a nice little place in a strip mall in North West Columbus, only semi-haunted by the clothing’s previous owners. Most of our costuming energy goes into keeping that enterprise going, though we occasionally put together a costume for my convention appearances.
These are two of our favorite costumes done on others. The first is a warrior class Minbari that we did both costume and make-up. The other is the Alien Queen, again costume and the three-foot-long mask.
Ruschelle: If luck struck you in the face like a long breast from an old stripper, which movie or project would you love to costume or be makeup artist for?
Josef: I always loved the chaotic scenes, like the cantina from Star Wars or the goblin market in Hellboy II. Decades ago, I pitched the idea of a spaceport bar on Earth after alien contact with dozens of alien races. Somewhere I still have the series bible with story ideas and a dozen different alien biologies. Yeah, if I got hit in the face with Fortune’s mammary, I’d dust that off.
Ruschelle: We all have our muses. Mine is drunk and passed out right now. So, as a creative, who do you turn to when you need a bump of inspiration?
Josef: I find bad, cheap horror and SFF movies to be highly inspiring. Seeing completed projects that were so cheezy and campy remove any concerns of whether my first draft is good enough.
Screwball comedies of the forties also have a special place in my heart. Like Arsenic and Old Lace or The Front Page. I initially described the Arcanum Faire trilogy as Bringing Up Baby meets Harvest Home.
Ruschelle: What offerings should your newfound fans look forward to from you?
Josef: As the Squirrel Apocalypse is being groomed for publication, I am working on The Silk Empress, a steampunk story of a Chinese airship gifted to an Alsatian business woman to run along the High Silk Road from China to Europe. It has air pirates, clockwork dragons, secret societies, and the world’s most inept boy adventurer, all in an altered history where China is on an equal footing with the European powers.
Then I’ll return to horror/comedy with Dead People’s Houses about an entrepreneur who deals in antiques, vintage clothing, and occult items and he has a knack of having just what you need. This will be in the same universe as Arcanum Faire with the probable overlap of one or two characters.
Ruschelle: Thank you so much for hanging out with us here at the Horror Tree. You are a man of many talents. How can your fans stalk you and send you sweet love notes here on the www?
You’ll love this interview with I.E. Lester. Here’s how he describes himself: “One quick fact; I’m tall. I mean it; there are shorter trees. And I probably should mention a fondness for semi-colons; and Oxford commas.”
Stacey – Hi Dave, it’s great to have you here! Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?
Dave – Hi, Stacey. It’s nice to be here.
Well, I tell people I’m an ex-industrial chemist, ex-TV engineer, and ex-award-winning animator currently masquerading as a social scientist, which is Close Enough for Government Work (CEGW). I live in Connecticut now after long stints in New York, Michigan, and New Jersey.
Stacey – When did you start writing?
Dave – I started writing in high school, then stopped in college, started again briefly (about the time I was in TV), stopped again, and then started again about eleven years ago when a friend of my (Jennifer Lautenschlager…she’s having serious surgery today, so good luck to her) challenged me to do National Novel Writing Month, and have been at it continuously since.
Stacey – What genres do you write in and what drew you to them?
Dave – I write predominantly science fiction and fantasy, and I write them because that’s what I like to read. I’ve been to engineering school, so I actually speak science, and have been known to kick science fiction books with bad science (I’m looking at you, Mockingjay) across the room.
I also write pulp/noir, because I like Chandler and Hammett, too, and have mashed it up with sci-fi and fantasy at times.
Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?
Dave – I like the focus. Writing is like being in a little world that contains myself and my characters. Using them to tell the story I want to tell is a lot like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle. If you have an idea what the finished story is supposed to be sort of like, it’s a matter of sorting through the pieces and finding the right ones to go in the right places.
Stacey – What scares you?
Dave – You know what I dread? Looking at me email. I hate getting rejections…but if I don’t look I can’t see the acceptances. So I hold my breath and check my email like six times a day.
Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?
Dave – I like to tell the kinds of stories I like to read, so I’ll see something and see how it fits. I get that from all over; I have a three-book series VERY loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan light operas. I write to prompts all the time. I have Rory’s Story Cubes, a set of dice with pictures on each side and roll them. Or sometimes I just say, “I want to write about a monster.”
Stacey – Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?
Dave – I keep citing the old science fiction writer H. Beam Piper, the guy who is probably best known for writing Little Fuzzy. I like him because he wrote well enough to be a professional, but not so well that I could not aspire to equal him. I tend to like the stories that are fairly straightforward in voice, like Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke or Fred Pohl, so I tend to use a similar style.
Stacey – What’s your writing process like?
Dave – I really believe that the first draft is just a matter of getting the story out there. There are a bunch of relevant quotations I cite all the time: “The first draft of anything is crap” (Hemingway); “The first draft is you telling yourself the story” (Terry Pratchett); “Bash it out now, tart it up later” (Nick Lowe). So I write the first draft quickly knowing I will spend two or three times as much time editing and rewriting.
As to when and where, I have few problems with that. I got a Macbook because it’s really light and fits into my backpack, and then I can just sit down somewhere and pop it open and start typing. All I really need is some background noise and a ready supply of coffee, and then I can write anywhere: in the coffee shop, or at home, or in the park, or on the train.
Stacey – What was the first story you had published?
Dave – Well, I had a couple stories in my high school literary magazine. Then I had a story in a Star Trek fanzine called The Other Side of Paradise. (If you google it you’ll see how long ago that was.) In this incarnation as a writer I got a steampunk story called The Patience of Virtue into an anthology book called Stories from the Ether #3. Two notes on that: the publisher went belly-up not long later, so I never got any royalties; I wrote Patience from an idea I got rolling the Story Cubes.
Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?
Dave – My favorite characters tend to be side characters or antagonists, because they are less constrained. The protagonist have certain jobs to do, so they are constrained in their acts, but the side-kicks and opponents can wreck havoc as they please. So I have Maximilian III Glendower, the Emperor of Galactic Space, or the cat burglar and con-woman Lady Penelope Sigurdsdotter. They are so much fun to write.
Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?
Dave – I haven’t finished my November NaNoWriMo project yet. It’s at 75,000 words and will probably reach 110,000 when it’s done. It’s more of a sci-fi socio-political thriller than the lighter stuff I like to write, so it just feels like a drag. Plus I know it ends somewhat tragically, and while I’m sure it has to end that way, I’m not sure I want to write it.
Stacey – What’s the last Horror movie/tv show you watched?
Dave – Horror isn’t really my thing, although I sometimes watch animes with horror themes. Rin – Daughters of Mnenosyne and Mardock Scramble fall into that category.
Would you count Good Omens? That was a brilliant adaptation of a brilliant book.
Stacey – If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?
Dave – There are a lot of people I’d like to meet. Twain. Teddy Roosevelt. Toshiro Mifune. Dorothy Parker. The five original New York Dolls. Lou Reed. Seems to be a lot of New Yorkers on that list.
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this, to be honest. If you make me pick one person sitting here right now, then sitting here right now I’m going to pick Jean Harlow, the movie actor who died very young. She was not only really cute, but she seems like she was a really sharp cookie, one of the few who figured out how to reinvent herself – Twice! – in her short career and was brilliant in everything she played.
Stacey – What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?
Dave – Write. Keep writing. Write some more. Get feedback on your writing and rewrite. There an old saying that goes, “You have a million words of crap you have to get out of the way before you’re a writer,” and the sooner you finish your million words, the sooner you’ll figure it out.
That or, don’t forget that rewriting is part of writing. “If you want to write, write. If you want to be read, rewrite.”
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
He was an old man of perhaps fifty years, and his four teeth stank of cardamom. “Beatricsh iss me daughter,” he said. “She’ss not a witch.”
“She failed the test, old man.” The sheriff pushed her in the millpond and she rose to the top, all the proof the law required. They were to burn her on the morrow, as Mother Sulin’s Eye rose above the foothills to the east, a day less two hours from now.
The old man looked at the wood-plank floor of the inn. He fumbled with a gray cap in his hands, as though I was his landlord and not a penniless sell-sword. “She’ss just me little gel,” he muttered. “I kin pay thee.”
My hand felt my purse. It had felt better, but so long ago I could scarce remember it. The two coppers at the bottom had rubbed together for weeks but not born children. “One gold piece, proof or none, is my price,” I said.
The knuckles of his gnarled hands grew white as he clutched his poor cap. “A gold if ye bring the proof in time. Two shilverss if ye do not.”
I weighed the costs. “Aye.”
Thank you so much for your time, Dave! If you would like to find out more about Dave D’Alessio and his writing, check out the links below.