Sunday, June 17, 2018

Full Length Review: VOTOV Votov (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Place of origin: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Genre: Old school death metal
Streaming on Soundcloud and Bandcamp
Release date: December 20, 2017
Votov’s 2017 debut full length first impressed me as having notable influence from Samael and Obituary. The opener The Smear has crunch and groove similar to Samael’s Throne Of Baphomet, without additional atmosphere. The primal theme and lyrics strike me as reflecting the constant bickering and arguing on social media, when it gives us an opportunity to share information and knowledge. As people have pointed out it becomes a forum for petty conflict and gaslighting which contributes to the dumbing down of the masses. I find most of the lyrics critique the stagnation that results from said conflict, much like that of spin media about which celebrity is getting divorced this week, “fake news” and other scandals that distract public attention from real problems we face each day. The dystopia is here and most people aren’t even aware of it. Listen to the spoken word CDs of Jello Biafra and watch the movies of Eric Bogosian and you’ll see what I’m saying. Popular media is eroding our ability to think critically, making us all mindless observers, and this is the point I believe the band is making. Or their point could be something else entirely. Either way, the lyrics address the issues of concern to them, not bothering to candy-coat them or gloss them over. The compositions they are set to present themselves as a preamble to what the band has to say, furnishing a stable backdrop. Memorable death metal bands have always arranged their songs in this way, utilizing their musicianship to make their point about self-perpetuating and self-defeating corruption, and Votov is off to a good start at following suit, making heaviness and mid-tempo groove the vehicle for their ideas. They complete their ritual with a rendition of Celtic Frost’s Dethroned Emperor, likely one the most covered songs in the history of death metal, but here it reinforces the unifying concept of their original songs and make you want to read more in the process. Contact the band and acquire a copy of this album. -Dave Wolff

Band lineup:
Chuck Labossiere: Guitars, vocals
John Duke: Bass
Derrick Kroll: Drums

Track list:
1. The Smear
2. Organic Incarceration
3. Absinuance
4. Indoctrination
5. Massing Link
6. By the Disgrace of God
7. Reviled Deliverance
8. Dethroned Emperor (Celtic Frost cover)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Live Review: Anthrax, Testament, Byzantine, DownSlave

Anthrax, Testament, Byzantine, DownSlave
The International, Knoxville, Tennessee. June 8, 2018
All photos by Deanna Revis 
DownSlave is a southern thrash band from Knoxville. They didn't really get a good chance to play. They were sort of screwed by the venue. They sounded good. They just didn't have any room on stage and were kind of rushed to finish their set. 
Byzantine is a thrash metal/heavy metal band from Charleston, West Virginia. They have shared the stage with the likes of Lamb of God, Anthrax, and Testament as well as others. They bring a mind blowing show. The stage presence of high octane. Chris Ojeda (vocals and rhythm guitar) will make you feel his intensity. Brian Henderson (lead guitar and vocals) is definitely a monster on the axe, and his vocals too. Sean Syndor (bass and backing vocals) is 200 proof no doubt! He is full of energy, intensity, and when he gets started this guy is unstoppable! Last but definitely not least Matt Bowles (drums) just WOW! When he gets in beast mode, Matt Bowles brings it! A real monster on the drums. All together Byzantine is a force to be reckoned with. They bring a live performance like no other. When the lights go back down, you are left wanting more. They should be on every metalhead's must see list. If you have never listened to them I would recommend the album's The Cicada Tree or The Fundamental Component. Byzantine is currently on Metal Blade Records. 
Testament. I grew up on bands like this. Even with the line-up changing over the past thirty-five years. I was blown away. Chuck Billy and his air guitar show how much fun he is having up there. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson definitely bring the pain, amazing axe work. Steve Did Giorgio on bass, makes you feel all of his blood, sweat, and tears. Gene Hoglan on drums, a heavy hitter. Testament does not leave you disappointed. 
Anthrax!!! To have the opportunity to see one of the Big Four was an experience like no other. I have been listening to Anthrax since I was a kid. This was a bucket list show. And to be front row was even better. Joey Belladonna still sounds better than some of these guys half his age. Frank Bello on bass, all I can say is Wow! Charlie Benante on drums, hits heavy... hits hard... sounds like thunder. Jon Donais on guitar, has so much energy and pours his heart in it. And last but definitely not least...... Scott Ian! The axe man cometh!!! The only remaining founding member of Anthrax.... I have loved his playing for years. If Anthrax comes to your town, buy a ticket and go! You will not regret it! -Deanna Revis

Monday, June 11, 2018


Interview with author MICHAEL ARONOVITZ

You do a regular series at Pure Grain Audio magazine called Music Hell, of which you showed me a sample featuring Anthrax. Describe this series to the readers and explain how it began?
To give a brief background, I had (have) been writing and publishing horror stories since 1993, my first collection in 2009, first novel in 2013. Instead of just Tweeting my buy links, back in 2014, I decided to write rock reviews as well. I always saw a connection between metal and horror, so that was my angle, and I wound up writing more of these reviews than first expected. As a natural sort of byproduct, I developed communications with a lot of musicians and industry people, one of them, Chris Poland of Eclipse Records. This past October, I asked him if he knew any rock magazines I could write for, as I was already freelancing for Metal Heads Forever by that point, thinking I could expand this even more. He introduced me to Chad Bower of Heavy Music Headquarters, and I currently write for him in addition to MHF.
Another name Chris Poland gave me last October was that of Chris Gonda, the CEO of Pure Grain Audio Magazine. He was nice enough to talk to me on the phone, and after hearing my history, immediately suggested that I write horror fiction stories about real rock bands, starring them as characters. This was the hybrid I was looking for. The first band I did a story on was Trivium back in January, titled “The Sculptor.” This story is about a serial killer who forces famous bands to solve his blood-puzzles. Chris next gave me the press kit for Electric Wizard, and I wrote their story titled “The Hiss of the Eliminator,” a tale about playing a deadly game of poker with the Grim Reaper. The third story centered around Asking Alexandria, titled “The Ghost of the Hot Checkered Flag Girl.” This one was about a horrific road race finally answering the fatal question of which is better in a death-race, Camaro or Mustang. With the fourth story, Chris made an incredible connection with Anthrax’s publicity people, yielding me the opportunity to write about one of the “Big Four” in Thrash history. For Anthrax, I decided to do something special, and we put out our first novelette at 11,500 words (equal to around 42 pages double spaced with standard margins and font). This one, titled “The Shadows of the Asylum,” was initially inspired by their tune “Madhouse,” and I decided to feature each band member in his own horror-scenario that eventually intertwined with all the others. The latest story to go up starred Carpenter Brut, titled “Blood Lust and Skin Hunger,” a vampire piece to be sure, but presented in a way I would hope readers would find surprising (and frightening).
On June 13, we are revealing the biggest of the Music Hell stories to date, featuring a band so huge and so perfect for this series, that readers will be blown away, guaranteed.

From where did your inspiration for writing horror come in the early 90s? Was your first collection of stories compiled of pieces you wrote from the early 90s to the late 2000s?
My inspiration for all horror writing goes back to Stephen King. I have read almost every one of his books and was blown away when I first read “Night Shift” in the early 80’s (it was released in ’78). I was especially taken with his descriptive ability coupled with the way he built characters so quickly and effectively. As for my first collection titled “Seven Deadly Pleasures,” (2009) yes, it was compiled of initially five tales I wrote in the early 90’s. I had walked away from writing fiction in the mid 90’s to go back to school to become a teacher. I wound up running the English Department and teaching 10th grade and seniors in a Philadelphia Charter School in the 2000’s and got a second masters in literature in 2006. A student got me a Borders gift card in late 2007 and I bought a book with stories about 17th century ghosts. It was edited by a guy named S.T. Joshi. The book reminded me of my own horror writing that I had abandoned for teaching, and I dug up the four stories I had published in the early 90’s in small magazines. I figured that if S.T. was an editor he knew people, so I found an email and sent them to him. I was surprised when he actually responded. He read my stuff, made some suggestions, and agreed to actually publish my material through a small press called Hippocampus, a small house that he used when he couldn’t find a larger press for his scholarly work. Turns out, he was (is) Lovecraft’s most renowned living biographer, so I had made a powerful friend! My long short stories equaled about 40,000 words altogether, and he suggested I make the collection double the word count. I took the scraps of a novel I had always believed in yet never realized and whittled it down to novella size. Now I had my word count, but when I told S.T. we could call it “Five Deadly Pleasures,” he said, “Michael, it won’t publish for a year or more, so why don’t you complete the metaphor. Write two more stories, making it “Seven Deadly Pleasures.” I quickly wrote a scary-clown story and then reworked a verbal tale about a ghost in a charter school that I had been telling my students for years. It is called “How Bria Died,” and also appeared in “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2011,” Prime Books.

Name the seven pieces compiled for Seven Deadly Pleasures. How much of an influence was Stephen King’s descriptive writing on your tales?
Originally, S.T. looked at four of my early works: “The Clever Mask,” “Passive Passenger,” “Quest for Sadness,” and “The Legend of the Slither-Shifter.” That equaled the 40,000 words. The novel I boiled down to novella-size was originally called “Mischief,” but shortened to the 40,000 I needed for the complete work count of the collection, it was re-named “Toll Booth.” To make it seven stories to equal seven deadly pleasures / sins metaphor, I wrote and added “The Exterminator” and “How Bria Died.” And Stephen King’s descriptive writing was a huge influence, especially short fiction like “Graveyard Shift,” “The Jaunt,” and “Survivor Type.”

How actively was Seven Deadly Pleasures promoted following its release? Tell the readers about the second collection of short fiction you published.
The promotion for Seven Deadly Pleasures was pretty well executed. I have never been very good at promotion, yet Derrick Hussey at Hippocampus Press did a nice job of contacting journals to announce its release. The horror scene is a niche-world, and within it, there was a bit of fanfare. I recall Publishers Weekly commented on it, mostly praising the novella “Toll Booth.” There were some other nice articles written on it and I sold a fair amount of books, enough for a little pocket money. It was a nice first publication. I did a reading at my original writing teacher’s place. His name is Ken Bingham, and his adult fiction writing class is an extravaganza that developed a whole social scene lasting decades. His community, built upon people taking his workshop, has literally hundreds, even in the thousands, who get together at his mansion-like place in South Philly every other Wednesday, so when one of their own has a book, it’s a big deal. That reading was a lot of fun. I also did one at a Barnes and Nobel down town, so it was a nice celebration all around. As far as the second collection, it was called “The Voices in Our Heads.” I took a chance on a new publisher here but felt it (ironically) could have been promoted better, so I recently got back the rights. I may be re-releasing the five or six best stories from there and adding five or six good new ones I have written since, for a brand-new collection.

I remember the short pieces by Stephen King you cited. What parts of each of those stayed with you since you read them? What can you say about his novels?
Interesting question, especially since I have a different aspect of each of the Stephen King short stories I found appealing and useful. “Graveyard Shift” has some of the best setting descriptions I had/have read. “The Jaunt,” one of his few examples of science fiction, simply had a phenomenal, thought-provoking premise: (tele-transport with one problem: you had to be knocked out when “jaunting” as the mind perceived the process as nearly endless, and if left awake, you went mad). As far as “Survivor Type” goes, I have taught many fiction classes where I paraphrase the tale not only for its awesome brutality, but the perfect examples of foreshadowing (his fingers, the doctor bag). In terms of his novels, my favorites are Christine, The Dead Zone, The Stand, and Joyland. I like them all for different reasons, but in the end, with King, it is always character-first.

Who are other writers of horror fiction you read when younger? Which era within the genre have you gotten the most from?
I was always a fan of some of the work of Dean Koontz (favorite book – Velocity), and Thomas Harris. Still, I have always argued that horror is not a genre. It is a spice, a condiment that is necessary in various forms for any story to make it interesting. Stories are based structurally and philosophically upon “impending peril,” and whether it is Cinderella having to get home by 12:00, or someone with a gun to the head, the “peril” is always there. In terms of an “era,” I just don’t know if my reading experience “covers that.” From King, I learned how to describe things and build character. Koontz has good plot work, so for me, he was more an influence for structure. Thomas Harris unveils his antagonists with aching slowness, a written method of “hiding the monster” that has never been equaled.

What about Koontz’s Velocity and other novels he wrote inspired you?
I always felt that his set-ups were strong. He had interesting scenarios that were troubling and engaging. In Velocity, he has a guy read a note on his windshield that says (paraphrased) “If you call the police, I will kill a teacher in Ft. Lauderdale. If you do not call the police, I will kill an elderly librarian in Jackson County.” This is the ultimate impending peril. No matter what the guy does, he is an accessory to murder. Unless, he chooses option 3…go after the guy or gal himself. That’s good stuff. As for his other work, I liked Night Chills. The antagonist had a very specific and human issue, linked with power, and it was fascinating. These are the only two that really appealed to me, however. Koontz tends to write passive sentences…a lot of “ing” words beginning the phrases, and unless you are doing bio stuff, I feel this weakens the prose. He also had a story (I forget the name, which tells you something) where a father had an unruly teenage son, and Koontz ends the conflict with a fierce hug. Wasn’t impressed.

Are you inspired by any older writers such as Poe, Lovecraft, Shelley or Stoker? If you have read their work, how relevant would you still consider it today?
Interestingly, I must say I am influenced by none of the above. I do realize that being the protégé of the world’s number one critic of Lovecraft, and myself not being a part of the humongous wave of Lovecraftian influence that has become so powerful especially in the last twenty years, might seem strange, but S.T. doesn’t seem to mind. My biggest influence from horror, of course, is King, but the biggest overarching model was created by Ernest Hemingway. I believe his Aesthetic Theory of Omission set the template for all modern writing, and I see a lot of his syntactic techniques (rambling sentences followed by short and declarative phrases) in my own work. I am also influenced by other classic writers who involved horrific elements in work not necessarily called “horror,” like Shakespeare, Ellison, Swift, and Chaucer.

What genres were you usually reviewing when you were freelancing for Metal Heads Forever and came into contact with Chris Poland? How much has your readership expanded with Heavy Music Headquarters?
I was writing reviews about Chris Poland’s bands long before Metal Heads Forever, actually. Chris P. was one of my first real industry-contacts back in 2014-2015. My third novel, Phantom Effect,” had just come out, and the idea to write rock reviews came from, again, my desire to tweet about things other than my books. A lot of new bands, maybe with their first record coming out, were sending auto-responses when you followed them, asking what you thought of their music. I answered one, Ralph Buso from Ravenscroft, and sort of “auditioned my writing for them” right there, watching their video “Cauldron of Deceit,” and commenting back in that skinny message space. Being that I was in a professional metal band in the 80’s, I had some insight into the business, and my being a teacher (now a college professor) helped with the analytic structure. He liked the review, and I got my friends at Hellnotes, a horror blog connected with Journalstone, to publish it. The content was different than the standard review. I talked about the horror genre for the equivalent of a few pages before even mentioning Ravenscroft, and so I had inadvertently created a “new style.”
Chris Poland came a month or so later. I had written reviews on Ravenscroft, Forever Still, Heaven the Axe, and Amerakin Overdose (that is the correct spelling) and saw a Twitter post about Eclipse Recording Artists-Saint Diablo. The singer, Tito, answered back, but said I had to go through the president of his label, Chris Poland. I wanted my own page by that point, so I convinced horror writers Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross to lend me space on their blog. I called my column “Goblet of Shock,” and continued writing scholarly reviews about metal and the historic and current connections to horror. In doing so, I have since reviewed more than ten or fifteen of Chris’s bands, so the two of us have become friends.
Metal Heads Forever came into the picture back early last summer, 2017. I wanted to put my stuff into a format that had bigger readership, and David Maloney there at MHF offered total freedom, no word count constraint, no oversight on content except a bit of copy editing by his pro Keith Clement. I have written more than thirty reviews (I believe…I would have to count) for David, and he gets a humongous amount of readership. For example, one of my reviews that concerned the Chicago power duo with singer – “Chains Over Razors” had more than 20,000 views.
When I contacted Chris Poland last October, asking him if he knew anyone else I could write for (to expand off of MHF), he introduced me to Chad Bowers, the one who runs Heavy Music Headquarters. His phenomenal magazine has stricter guidelines, and I have been writing for him since October, 2017. His reviews are far shorter, (usually 125 words) and I do not choose the bands. I did get an opportunity with Chad very recently to get my own page for a review of one of my all-time favorites, Dokken, and their live record, and I recently went to a show here in Philly at the TLA theater with guest passes from Chris Poland for his band Sifting. I wrote a comprehensive article on this band back in November for Metal Heads Forever, but for this live show, I was given no word restrictions and my own page at Heavy Music Headquarters. That article went up on May 22nd. I honestly do not know how much my readership has expanded with HMH, but I am sure the numbers are favorable.

What was your usual criteria for reviewing bands for Metal Heads Forever? How many fanzines and webzines are you currently writing reviews for today?
The bands I review for Metal Heads Forever have to thrill me. MHF does not have a “rating system,” so my analysis is never based on deconstruction. In other words, I don’t write reviews to talk about shit I don’t like. There are other reviewers for that, and rockers work too hard to hear that noise coming from a small-market horror writer like me. Since I have experience playing heavy metal, I tend to favor those types of projects. I also usually choose to review bands I want to get to know. One of the things I do for MHF is contact the band personally so I can ask questions one can’t just go and find online. I write for three rock magazines currently: Metal Heads Forever, Heavy Music Headquarters, and Pure Grain Audio, though all my writing for PGA is fiction in the “Music Hell” series.

What was the last band release that thrilled you as you indicated? How and why?
No doubt, a tie between Lillye with “Evolve,” and Sifting with “Not From Here.” These are two bands off the Eclipse label that are not, in fact, deathcore, and both have incredible star power and originality. I also reviewed Avatar’s new record for Heavy Music Headquarters a couple of months ago and gave my first 5 out of 5. Excellent structuring, variety, and guitar-work on that one.

Does writing with no word restrictions help you express yourself freely and clearly?
I actually enjoy both. Freedom of word count, as I have with Metal Heads Forever, allows me to bring in more specific examples and allusions to literature and horror. On the other hand, the standard reviews I do for Heavy Music Headquarters are 150 words, and I appreciate the idea that I have to be succinct. As I mentioned previously, however, I had the opportunity to do those two longer pieces for HMH recently, (Dokken’s live record and the concert review for the band “Sifting”), and I feel those are strong pieces of writing as well.

What did you have to say about Dokken and Sifting in your reviews of them?
Well, I have dug Dokken since the early 80’s. George Lynch has an incredible sound, and the ESP product he promotes is top rate. Their live album is a gem, and I complimented most their sound production and sharp execution. They had a couple of new tunes as well, studio versions, that were excellent.
Sifting, as mentioned before, is a new band on the Eclipse Records label. I went to see them at the TLA Theater here in Philly, on their guest list. There were no seats, but I was in the equivalent of the second row. They were amazing, playing the “spaces” as much as the changes, with incredible two-guitar solo portions. I got to talk to the band at their merch table (and outside actually) at length, and the article was fun to write.

How much do social media sites help independent reviewers and authors make a name for themselves? Which sites have helped you promote to readers most actively?
I have gone back and forth with people about this, and I fall on the side of being hesitant to talk about social media promotion and specific sites, because in many ways, I find the labyrinth to be disagreeable. Of course, I have a Twitter and a Facebook, but I disagree with those who say it is effective to promote our own books by living in these places all day. I have talked to writers that say they promote quite cleverly all over the Internet, yet it takes up half of their writing time. I know a horror author who self-publishes, and claims he sold literally thousands of books simply by putting up stuff on Facebook. For me, it has never been that easy, and I consider many of the social media self-promotions to be basically useless. The way Facebook is set up, many of my posts don’t reach all my friends anyway, and I have never been good at getting my best five pals together at Starbucks, flipping open our lap tops, and lighting up the world. Everyone has a circle of acquaintances, usually to the tune of three to five hundred people, who will buy the first book. The thing the author-mills don’t tell you, (and they are the ones who sign anyone, then send you monthly newsletters concerning the ways to spend all day self-promoting) is that your promotion is all the promotion, and once your three hundred enthusiastic “friends” buy your couple of books, they are wondering why you keep messaging them about new work as if you’ve become a human spam-bot.
I could go down the rabbit hole about this. The Internet never really gave me many sales. I am not self-published, and the traditional presses, for the most part, worked well with me, contacting journals and blogs, and getting the word out. The bigger, medium sized presses, actually send your book out to stores and outlets and only count those as “non-sales” if you have returns. But again…I would much rather be a bit more of a mystery on line, than the guy who puts up those fucking stupid daily questions, like “What’s your favorite hotty in last year’s feature films, GO!” or putting up pictures of my cat. I post when I have something online or available and try to leave it at that. Of course, the Internet and posting things brought me other things of great value to me as opposed to straight book sales. It got me reviewing rock, which has become a hobby that I absolutely treasure. I have met people on line, and that has been far more beneficial than self-promoting the books.

How do you go about choosing bands to write horror fiction around? How have your fiction pieces on PGA gone over with fans and zine readers since you began your regular column?
In terms of the bands for the Music Hell series, Chris Gonda is the one who has the contacts. He approaches the bands, then with their permission, provides me the press kit so I can see their latest work. I try to help celebrate that with a story that relates to their “themes,” or more specifically, their videos, lyrics, and overall feel. As far as how the stories are going over with fans, I think it is going famously. The only way to technically “check it” is to count the Facebook shares, but to me, this is like a batting average, leaving out many factors. The Anthrax piece yielded more than five hundred shares, so that is a nice indicator…yet not the whole picture by any means.

Which press kits most helped you develop a fictional piece about the band?
Without a doubt, Electric Wizard. Their promotional stuff is so all about horror that the story jumped into my mind. Their “motto” is “Legalize drugs and murder,” and Liz Buckingham is on their pro-Facebook page kissing a skull.

Tell the readers about the novels you have written to date. Is writing short stories or longer novels generally easier for you?
I have three novels that have been published. The first, “Alice Walks” is a ghost story. “The Witch of the Wood” is apocalyptic dark fantasy, and “Phantom Effect” is a serial killer piece with a supernatural thread. All three were challenging to write and I like them all for different reasons. “Alice Walks” is the most commercial of the bunch, and “Phantom Effect” sold the most. Short stories, however, are much easier for me. I like them long, though, and find I am most comfortable with 8000-word stories or somewhere around there, or even more preferable, the “novelette,” between 11,000 and 20,000 words.

How long did it take you to pen those novels? What inspiration did you draw from?
A nice question, and one not asked very often. Still, more than the time it takes to write one, I think an interesting way to look at it is how the given piece was written creatively…more specifically…was it planned, outlined, or discovery-written? Many writers swear on outlines. Chet Williamson is one of them, and I dig his work. He claims that discovery writing is like jumping off a cliff and hoping for a hang glider…that he likes to know what he is going to write that day before he does it. This is a Richard Matheson template. He claims a writer needs to know the last line before he writes the first (paraphrased), but for me, I specifically do not outline so I can specifically NOT know what I am going to write the next day. If there is no discovery, there’s little that’s fresh…and speaking of the time it takes to write a novel, I find it difficult to predict where I am going to be, say, a year from now, in terms of the plot, in terms of the developments I made at the moment right there at the word on a particular day…in reference to the techniques I developed along the way that reflect a change in the story, the feel, or the format. In other words, I think some of the best things come when you go exploring. That being said, I believe in a combo - taking the best of both worlds. I like having a couple of nifty horrific (yet poetic) images to aspire toward, and then I make the story fit.
Alice Walks is a short novel, at around fifty thousand words. I wrote it in eight months. I started with an image I had in my head of a fourteen-year-old girl who died drowning last summer. In my developing vision, she is down by her mausoleum at the south edge of the Saint Mary’s Cemetery, floating on the cold night air. For some reason, someone is throwing rocks at her. She bleeds, symbolically, like Jesus, and whips toward her attackers. I was working out how to hide the monster, and thought a veil would be nice, sticking to her face as she breathed, like Saran Wrap on a skull, then falling loose. Hmm. Breathing. She died drowning. Every ghost needs a chant or a rhyme the little kids remember her by, so I thought of, “Alice Walks. She walks ‘because she can’t breathe. She’s angry that you can.” As I was thinking of these things, my son, thirteen at the time, was having a sleepover, and he asked for some Red Bull. I asked why, and he complained that his friends Nick and Will put oatmeal in your shorts if you fell asleep first. I smiled. I had my rock-throwers. They sneak out on the night of first November snow to get high in the tool shed. Mikey, the lead character, has the keys because his dad is a grave digger there. Hence, this makes available the background information that the yard is exposing a corpse in one of the mausoleums so it will deteriorate faster. The kids go to look at the body. Her spirit falls in love with and stalks the lead character. Once I had that much, I wrote the story as I went. I knew the ending when I was about half way through.
The Witch of the Wood was even less planned. It took a year and a half and stands at slightly less than 80,000 words. With Witch, I was dealing with more fantasy stuff, and everything was engineered around an apocalyptic event that was pre-planned. That whole concept began when I looked around and wondered what it would be like if every tree fell down in the world at the same time. What would the after-effects be? Hmm. Now, how can I make that happen? Turned into a witch-piece. Trees are prison stalks, their nest of roots each holding a witch prisoner. The wild stuff took off from there. Interestingly, I sometimes end my stories too quickly, feeling that a sudden blow or shot makes for a cool exclamation point. S.T. Joshi looked at the original draft and said my protagonist and antagonist hadn’t really “faced off,” and it felt short. I took an extra month and added about thirty pages, making a gore-fest rodent, bird, highway scene I still feel defines the book. Thank you, S.T.!
My third novel, Phantom Effect, came out through the powerful Night Shade Books (now also known as Skyhorse). The small market and boutique presses I had been published through were certainly reputable, Centipede being the biggest (they put out the hard cover version of Alice Walks), but Night Shade was my first deal with a mid-ranger. Phantom Effect started as a short story. I only had my first line, “I ain’t scared, asshole,” and I wrote what ended up being a serial killer tale. It seemed on the brink of a larger story, and I set off to write my most complicated piece. Even though I feel the book is exciting as all get-out (a serial killer is up on Rt. 476 in a rainstorm at midnight with two flat tires and the body of coed Marissa Madison cut to seventeen pieces in his trunk. A cop pulls up to “help.” This is where the story begins!). There were politics going on with this one. Back in 2012-2013 there were a lot of magazine editors making what I felt were ludicrous demands of writers, claiming first person narration was a sloppy-second to third person limited, that flashbacks were for rookies, that point of view shifts were infantile, etc. Phantom Effect was my rebellion, breaking every rule I could, adding first person and third person narrations back to back to back, multiple viewpoints, and a funhouse of flashbacks as part of the story. I have gotten mixed press on the piece, but I love it because the opinions are usually so extreme. I have had people say they couldn’t put it down, and others say the structure made them feel stupid (or that I was showing off). Heck, sometimes I felt stupid, as I literally had no idea what the next scene was going to be until I wrote it. I had nothing but the beginning I just described, and I discovery-wrote this as pure as one can do. It was terrifying. There were some times when I couldn’t think of the next scene or chapter for a week or so, but I never abandoned the writing for much more than that. It was heavy lifting, but good lifting to be sure, and another HUGE benefit of writing this way is that…if I have to work this hard to figure out the next twist, the reader, strolling casually through the piece will probably never guess my next move. When authors “telegraph,” I feel it is from too much preparation…forcing the piece to fit a stale and antiquated vision. So often, the characters develop and grow through the course of the writing, and I know this sounds really “artsy,” but if a character wants to grow, you let him or her do it! Anyway, Phantom was the kind of piece an author usually only pulls off once in his or her life. The labyrinth of plot detail, all tying up at the end, was fun for me, but felt like a one-time thing. Can’t be duplicated or “modeled,” because it broke the mold. The piece took me two years to complete at 83,000 words, and for a while, I literally could not write anything else. After realizing that Phantom couldn’t be replicated, I started doing short stories again. I have some damned good ones too! Seems like I almost have enough for a third collection.

How many pieces do you think will be included in the third collection, if you decide to publish it? Are you consistently looking to review for new magazines and webzines?
Twelve to fifteen. I have done a few sweeps, but presently I am happy writing these things for Metal Heads Forever and Heavy Music Headquarters.

What bands would you want to write about in future stories?
An excellent question, especially since I might weigh a band I love with the type of project that sparks a story in my mind! For example, Asking Alexandria is a phenomenal metal band, but the Music Hell story simply “erupted” in my imagination the very second that I saw their video for “Into The Fire.” In short, however, without the materials of all these potential projects in front of me, I would say, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, and Halestorm for starters.

As far as you know, is writing and publishing fictional pieces featuring bands something that hasn’t been tried before?
I do not believe I have ever seen it tried before. There have been band movies, some good, some bad, some biographical, some fictional, but I have never heard of a band with a current release having a horror story done about them and starring them, so yes, I think “Music Hell” as a series is unique.

How well have your novels been received by horror readers since they were released?
Most horror readers like my stuff. I have been criticized for over-writing at times, yet most of my work has been called atmospheric and frightening. Some have called me “literary,” but I disagree. The “literary” stuff has much more of a political-symbolic feel, and I always wanted to go for a nice, regular old good story.

Tell the readers about Electric Wizard and how much of their material you have heard?
Electric Wizard is an awesome stoner doom metal band, and their latest release, Wizard Bloody Wizard (2017) is phenomenal. They are a four-piece band made up of guitarists Jus Oborn and Liz Buckingham, Clayton Burgess on bass, and Simon Poole on drums. I was impressed with the album Wizard Bloody Wizard especially in the sense that the band was/is clearly more interested in power than speed. I am an old school Sabbath fan, and their music reflects similar inspirations. Jus is also a great guy, and he was quite helpful when I got a chance to talk to him briefly before writing their story, “The Hiss of the Eliminator.”
Are you considering ideas for future novels at this point? If so, what have you come up with thus far?
Thank you for asking this question, and I will answer it this way. The “Music Hell” series has my primary focus at this point, as every month I need to work off of a given band’s materials and think of a brand-new story. Amazingly, I have, in fact, had the opportunity to write “in between” a bit however, and came up with the tale, “The Tool Shed,” which I wrote in January. This will appear in Jason Henderson’s Castle of Horror anthology sometime later this year, but as for a novel, I am considering a number of horrific scenarios to aspire to. Interestingly, I have been seriously considering expanding on an antagonist I created, “The Sculptor,” originally making his appearance in my short story of the same name, appearing in the 2011 edition of The Weird Fiction Review Centipede Press. I resurrected this character and put him in a musical setting for our first “Music Hell” piece starring Trivium, and I have been considering building a novel around him outside of the “metal thread.” (Originally, he had nothing to do with music). I might go another direction with this, however. I am currently in the very first stages of making a podcast possibly writing this character with a partner-writer creating the protagonist, but again, this is in the very earliest of stages.

Do you see the market for independent writers increasing in the future, as it has for the last ten or fifteen years?
It is hard to predict what the landscape is going to look like in the near future. Independent writers, or self-pubbers, have flooded the marketplace, going on the Amazon platform, or looking for those prior-mentioned author-mills, and selling their initial five hundred. In a way, it makes it harder for guys like me who go traditional, because the market is glutted with what is so-often filler. It is sort of like the old college rule that only peer reviewed articles from the official data bases will be accepted suddenly getting overrun by a new administration that accepts any shit off of Google. Sure, now that we’re are flooded with information, some of it will be valid, but much of it will just be noise, often watered-down shit that is generalized off the first hand, fresh research we would have gotten off the data bases. I know…sloppy sort of parallel, but that’s the way that it feels.
On the other hand, in a way, we are living in the most literate period in history, as those with a wide variety of skills and deficits gain the automatic ability to publish. That’s a beautiful thing. Anyone can write a novel and publish it, a short story, an article, a paragraph, a one-liner. It is easy to throw one’s voice into the mix. Getting a lot of people to slow down and listen to your voice exclusively, however, is a different story altogether, and having that audience stay with you over a substantial time period, a modern day beautiful miracle.

Is there anything you want to reveal about the new fiction you plan to release on June 13?
No can do. Or the powers that be will kill me. But…hint…this band has a big summer tour going on.

-Dave Wolff

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Author Interview: JAAP BOEKESTEIN

Interview with author JAAP BOEKESTEIN

When we started corresponding on Facebook you said your fiction writing encompasses everything from science fiction to fantasy to horror to crime to erotica.
Way back then I started with science fiction and fantasy, because that was what I was mostly reading at that time and I had way too little life experience to write about things I really had experienced and felt. But little geeks grow up and learn about the universe, life and themselves. Slowly but surely my field broadened. I did odd jobs like working for a detective agency and being a bouncer, I dug into alternative lifestyles, got stabbed, was set afire (by accident, it scared her way more than me) and worked for the Dutch penal system for a while (I’ve been in a LOT of jails). All this showed up in my writings. I started to write crime stories (or noir, or whatever you want to call them), and erotica for anthologies and zines. Although I read very little horror, I love to write the stuff. In my opinion you got two kind of horror writers: the ones who write horror to confront themselves with their own fears and phobias, and the ones who are just sick bastards who want to torture the reader. I seldom feel fear so you can figure out which kind of horror writer I am. Another reason for the wide range of (sub)genres, is that I like to try things. Am I enough of a writer to write Sherlock Holmes stories? Convincing lesbian erotica? Or gay erotica? Children stories, classic Gothic stuff, hard SF, sword & sorcery? Some genres are pretty funny, and I will return to them. Other genres are less interesting for me and I move on after proving to myself I can do it (or not, still haven’t been able to write a convincing romance. It is so boring!).

You stated you write for the passion of it, not fame and fortune. Also that few writers achieve notoriety for their work.
Mine isn’t a story of crushed dreams, I’m afraid. I’ve the advantage of being Dutch and the Dutch market is really small. When I started writing I looked around and realized right away that even the most successful Dutch fiction writers hardly could make a living from writing, and those guys and ladies were mainstream writers. Let alone for the tiny, tiny Dutch markets of science fiction, fantasy, horror or crime. Although I don’t write for fame and fortune, I do like to be published. It’s like: someone thinks the stuff that came from my mind is interesting enough to publish. Yeah! Of course if it’s great if people like it, but for me that’s just the cherry on top. Somehow for me it’s more about recognition (being published) then fame (being well-known). Anyway, I always approached writing as a fun hobby, even when I started writing in English for real (in 2015). Sure, that is a much bigger market, but with way more competition. Besides, if you want to try to make a living as a writer, you will have to do novels. Although I’ve done five novels (in Dutch) I am a short story writer at heart. The fantasy novels where basically mosaic novels: a bunch of short stories about the same characters. Quite like the Sword books by Fritz Lieber, a writer who has had a huge influence on me.

How small exactly is the Dutch market when compared to the markets in the U.S. and other countries?
About twenty million people speak Dutch, which is peanuts compared to the English market. For me it isn’t as much a question about how many potential readers I can reach, but about opportunities to be published. In the Netherlands there are about two to three zines for the fantastic genres and say two to four anthologies each year. I write about forty to fifty stories per year. The situation is even worse for crime and erotica. Even with several pen names I just had way too much stories for the market. And self-publishing isn’t my thing. Too much hassle.

How many pen names have you written under over the years?
I think four or five, but the majority were one offs. The only I used for a while, was a female one, Claudia van Arkel. I wrote the more experimental stories under that name and it was a great way to explore different styles and themes. After a few years I stopped with the pen names and nowadays I write exclusively under my own name. Not matter what genre. At a time the stories of Claudia van Arkel were published way quicker than my own work, and damn! She was getting fan mail. From male fans, which was not something I had anticipated, or was hoping for. I could really have milked those guys dry, but no, I didn’t. All the things I’ve done in English, are under my own name. Although crime publishers seem to prefer initials to full first names. So there are few crime stories out there by J.L. Boekestein instead of Jaap Boekestein. It is both me.

You were writing and publishing your fiction in Dutch for some time before writing and publishing in English. At what point did you switch and what were the reasons?
My first story was published in 1989 (I am that old) and at that time there were a handful of zines in Dutch around. During the years the number of publication possibilities dwindled and I started to translate stories to English. Basically for fun, because, hey it looks good to be published abroad. A writer friend of mine convinced me somewhere in 2015 to write directly in English and submit a story. To my surprise it was accepted and I suddenly realized I had a gigantic market with tons of anthologies and zines! That one anthology was never published because the guy behind it moved to Japan, but I started writing and sending of stories in earnest. English isn’t my first language, but it holds up good enough to be accepted. So far I’ve had over fifty English publications in a wide range of sometimes pretty obscure publications.

Which Dutch zines consistently published your work in the early years of your writing career?
Well… There was a bit of a jinx. This was back in the late eighties, early nineties: pre-internet so you couldn’t put your zine online. It was mostly xerox-copied stuff with good to awful artwork and names like Survival Magazine, Holland SF, Rakis, Ator Mondis, Cerberus, Manifesto Bravado, Xuensé. A lot zines seemed to fold right after they published one of my stories. I deny anything, but it sure was weird.

Are any of those magazines that published your earliest work still in print today? Do you still have copies of those published writings?
This is ancient stuff, nothing is in print anymore. I still have copies somewhere, and I’ve scans of the zines. Way easier to find! I scan all my publications. Heck, I scan all my papers. If my house burns down, I still have a backup of everything I’ve ever written.

Do you think local zines being short lived was a limitation on you promoting your work?
I just don’t promote my work. I write the piece, sent it off and the story gets published or not. The payoff for me is the writing itself and the publication. I care little for what happens afterwards because I will not -and certainly do not want to- make a living from my writing. That would totally suck the joy out of it.

When you started writing in English, how many publications published your fiction pieces most consistently?
Not many, I guess, because basically I’m a publishing-slut: I will put out for almost anyone who will publish me. And I do a lot of anthologies. Come to think of it, I’ve been published quite a lot in the anthologies of Hellbound Books Publishing (Devils, Demons and Denizens of Hell, Volume 2, The Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Volume 2, Depraved Desires Volume I & II). They like my kind of kinky bizarro horror and we’ve become friends. All this is very much not the way to go if you want to be a ‘serious’ author which is commercially interesting for the big publishing houses. They need authors and work that will sell to the masses and this stuff is just too uncomfortable. Don’t follow in my footsteps if you want to be the next Stephen King!

Were the anthologies you were published in offered for sale online? If so, how much did this help get your name around?
You can find most of them on Amazon, where I have an author page. Not to promote myself, but I’m vain and love to see all the publications together. I really don’t know if I reached any readers, but I do know at least some small press publishers know my name. Some sub-genres are pretty small with the same names over and over again. So pretty soon you’re a medium sized fish in a small pond. 

Which fiction genres are you still pursuing after proving to yourself you can compile a story? How often do you feel you have nothing more to prove in that regard?
Well, I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve a dozen sites I check daily for calls of submission and if anything looks interesting I put the details on my writing list. If I have the time and the energy I will write that story and sent it off. If it is accepted, yee! If not, I’ll submit it somewhere else. What triggers me are the ‘out there’ themes. This year I’ve written Edgar Allan Poe erotica, tentacle erotica, Weird Western, vampire stuff, noir, bizarro horror, sword and sorcery. Still on my to do list for this year are Splatterpunk in space, Christmas Noir, a Las Vegas horror story, a Bondage story, 1980’s trash, Cthulhu Mythos, Maid erotica, Consent and a few more. I sure hope to have time to write them all. What triggered me with Autoeroticasphyxium zine in the first place was the brilliant title and the artwork, so I sent you a story which I thought was a fit. Purely based on the title and drawings! Only later I read the blog and I loved it. Yeah, sometimes things work out in a weird way.

Which science fiction and fantasy authors were early inspirations when you started writing? Did any specific stories stand out to you in those days?
Besides Leiber’s dark humor and undercurrent of dark eroticism, there was the colorful work of Jack Vance, the elegance of Clark Ashton Smith and the decadence of Tanith Lee. There is also this Dutch writer Robert van Gulik who wrote detectives in ancient China (Judge Dee), but he isn’t well known outside the Netherlands. When I like a writer, I usually read all of his or her work. It’s hard to point at a specific novel or story that stands out. I just don’t have any favorite book, story, color, song, hero or such. I’m afraid writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft or other big guns didn’t do much for me. Neither can I really point at any crime writers which got me going. Sure, I read Chandler, Hammett and plenty of others, and I can appreciate a lot of authors, but they didn’t really form as a writer.

What books by the authors you cited as influences would you suggest to the readers?
That’s though, because these authors really were a start for me personally, but I haven’t the faintest idea if anyone else would find them interesting nowadays. I guess some work of Fritz Leiber will interest some readers. He was on the periphery of the whole Lovecraft circle and there is a flavor of decadent darkness in his work which is pretty good. Don’t expect gore, or the usual monsters. His villains are bad, but sometimes you want to be them. At least I wanted to be them as a kid!

I think I’ve heard of Clark Ashton Smith but I’m not completely certain.
He was a contemporary of Lovecraft and died sometime in the seventies, I think (Wikipedia knows). He only did short stories and a lot of poems. During his life he was more famous as poet then a fiction writer. Most of his stories are scoundrel fantasies set on several pe-historic continents. Like so many writers of the Lovecraft circle there are plenty of Mythos links in Smith’s work. Of the big three of that clique (H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith) the work of Smith has not doubt the best style. Come to think of it, Smith was clearly inspired by partly the same source material as Poe and Lovecraft: the stories of 1001 nights and Vathek. My first published story was really a Clark Ashton Smith rip off. Like almost all writers, it took some time to find my own voice.

Why wasn’t Robert van Gulik recognized outside the Netherlands? How would you rate him as a writer of detective fiction?
I suspect a host of reasons. Maybe Robert van Gulik did not want to put in the marketing effort, or he had a bad agent, or the English market in the 1960’s wasn’t ready for historical whodunnits set in ancient China. Fair to say, in the Netherlands he was popular until the late 1980’s, after which his work dwindled pretty much into obscurity. Most of it is written in the 1950’s and 1960’s and it is a bit old fashioned. Like the work of Agatha Christie or such. What attracted me wasn’t as much the crime element, but the very convincing portrayal of life in the Ming dynasty. He knew how to make an utterly alien world alive and accessible, what I’ve always tried to do with my own fantasy work. Robert van Gulik was a China-specialist, spoke the language and knew a great deal about Chinese history. And he wrote a study called: Erotic Colour Prints of the Ming Period: With an Essay on Chinese Sex Life from the Han to the Ch'ing Dynasty, B.C. 206-A.D. 1644. A Dutch university has a copy and a friend of mine once got permission to study the book.

What can you say of the writings by Jack Vance and Tanith Lee? Are their writings still relevant today?
Both have their fans, but very few dead authors stay relevant. Public tastes move on and artists are a product of their time. I’ve both met them at conventions and I loved and love their work, for different reasons, but I doubt they influence a lot of new writers nowadays. Yes, at this day and age the work of deceased writers stays available by digital means: no more hunting for second had copies or trying to find that one anthology or zine. But when everything is available it’s pretty difficult to find the gems. As Sturgeon said: 90% of everything is crude.

What by Fritz Lieber have you read, and what do his published books offer horror fiction?
I’ve almost read all his books. I would recommend his Sword-series if you like scoundrels. There is plenty of horror in his short stories and of course the novels Conjure Wife and Our Lady of Darkness. And his sci fi novel The Wanderer is pretty interesting and certainly has its dark moments. The thing to remember is that Leiber is subtle. The blood doesn’t ooze from the walls, the maniac isn’t breaking down the door. Somehow he manages to put the horror in the possibility of the blood oozing from the walls and the danger of the maniac on the other side of the door. He’s an acquired taste and in this day and age he will probably feel rather old fashioned.

How much of an inspiration has Edgar Allan Poe had on you as a writer?
I read everything of Poe, which is one of the early giants of the genre. As a starting writer you really need to read him, just like Lovecraft. He had a subtle sense of humor, which I like, as his sense of the bizarre. What didn’t work for me was the whole Gothic doom and madness approach. I like my characters to go down fighting instead of complaining. The world is full of day to day horrors, and most people accept them and go on with their life. Romanticism with its suffering and moaning about destiny and lost loves, doesn’t do it for me. So yeah, Edgar Allan Poe influenced me, because he influenced a lot of writers I read (and don’t forget those great movies with Vincent Price et al), but I think it was mostly indirectly.

How did Lovecraft and his published works help to inspire your writing?
I started with Lovecraft pretty late; style and theme wise he did nothing for me. I don’t care for the whole “it’s terrible that we humans are insignificant in an indifferent universe” thing. The Mythos as a shared universe is great but that was never Lovecraft’s real aim. He and his fellow writers started it for fun and it grew from there. I like to write Mythos stories every now and then, but they are pretty far removed, theme-wise, from the original works. I have people entering R’lyeh through BDSM, or Cthulhu worshippers stray from the path because they run into a funny, seductive dominatrix. So did Lovecraft inspire me? Only as far that there is this big story universe with plenty of interesting places to visit.

How would you say your Mythos fiction compares to that of Lovecraft and other authors you have read?
Most Mythos writers love to make their own Elder God and forbidden book. I couldn’t resist to invent the Liber Buckesteynus as a joke, but there is such a multitude of Ancient Ones that I stayed away from making one up. A lot has been done with the Mythos by a lot of different writers. The one thing that connects my Mythos stories, is that none of my characters really get excited about all the old aliens and ultimate secrets. That stuff is usually going on in the background and my characters are busy leading their own lives. They want money or power or love and the cults and monsters are just a way of getting it. In my stories the mythos is mundane, because everything becomes mundane if it is around long enough in people’s lives. One tale is about a cultist who is bored because his mother makes him go to these endless rallies where they pray for the end of the world by the hands of some ancient, sleeping, gigantic alien. He would rather go to all those weird and scary and mysterious BDSM-parties where people do all kinds of interesting stuff. I’m pretty sure Lovecraft would have hated my take on things…

How much vampire fiction did you write this past year? Did you draw inspiration from any particular eras or use your own imagination?
The fun thing is that I recently did some vampire erotica stories, which were really my first serious vampire stories ever. I think I’ve done three so far, mostly to prove to myself I can write them, and because vampire erotica anthologies keep turning up looking for stories. For a long time, as a writer, I had the same problem with vampires as I did with dragons: the traditional vampire who is super powerful and can infect anyone, is unbeatable in the real world. Are as dragons. They are too damn strong to make sense. Only when I started making vamps considerably weaker, I could create a believable world where they could exist. My inspiration for vampires was painfully limited: Dracula (I read the damn book about three or four times) and way to many Anne Rice vampire-novels. Oh, and Kim Newman excellent Anno Dracula-series. Of course I’ve seen scores of vampire flicks. Some of them were entertaining enough, but the only one that really inspired me, was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. I guess it was the dames in corsets that worked for me.

What about the storyline and character development in Coppola’s Dracula was an inspiration to you?
Francis Ford Coppola gave Dracula a background story, which I thought really worked for a modern audience. We want some meat on the bones of our villains nowadays. But in the movie I think Coppola struggles with the fact that Bram Stoker had so many male characters. You got the three suitors of Lucy, you have Mina’s husband and of course dirty old Van Helsing. That makes five good guys, which is way too many for a movie and even for a book. Probably Bram Stoker choose three suitors because three is a powerful number and Dracula has three brides, but poor Quincy Moris (the American) does little more than waving his Bowie knife and dying. And after his ordeal in Dracula’s castle, Jonathan Parker becomes a non-entity in the story. What I liked in the movie was the beautiful cinematography, Gary Oldman’s performance and -oh god!- the extremely hot Sadie Frost. And Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Professor Van Helsing. In horror there are only two famous Dutch characters: Professor Van Helsing, and the Flying Dutchman. I’ve used them both in stories.

How do you view action packed vampire movies such as Blade, Underworld and Van Helsing?
I love them for what they are: entertainment. They absolutely have their faults, but shoot, watching Wesley Snipes dusting vampires (Blade), or Kate Beckinsale run around in black gleaming body suits (Underworld) or a corset (Van Helsing) is fun! Which doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the artier vampire movie. The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie was great. I’m not a vampire acolyte, but I like them well enough. Thematically they usually are a lot more interesting than slashers or torture porn. Which may sound a bit strange, because I’m no stranger to describing torture in my horror stories.

What did you like about The Hunger when you saw it? What do you think was unique about that movie?
Definitely it 1980’s aesthetics, but also the theme of aging and decay. Most vampire movies focus on the bloodsucking and fighting the vampires. In The Hunger the vampires where brutal but you could see why. Blood is survival. Come to think of it, Only Lovers Left Alive did the same in a more mellow way. Also a nice movie.

Are you interested in any movies from the zombie genre, anything from the 1970s to the present day?
I dig the Romero-movies, and I love Shaun Of The Dead, but most of the zombie genre does not appeal to me. The whole nihilistic approach most zombie-movies have, is just depressing. World War Z was rather boring after close escape numero zillion and The Walking Dead are not really about zombies but is just a pretty unrealistic survival story. The Resident Evil movies are fun, bet hey, pretty babe fights and shoots gory monsters. What is not to like?

Would you ever consider writing a screenplay for a vampire or zombie movie?
It would be a challenge. I’ve haven’t done any real zombie stories yet because I’ve haven’t found an original take on zombies. Making them conscious with feelings feels like cheating. In my eyes they just aren’t zombies anymore.

How many Western based pieces have you written to date?
Exactly one, which is the story I’ve done earlier this year. And this was Weird Western: a Western setting in combination with supra-natural elements. Like Stephen King’s Gunslinger. My story is about ghosts stopping at a saloon on their way to Hell. I’ve submitted it and now it’s playing the waiting game. Maybe I will write more (Weird) Westerns if an interesting anthology comes riding into town. Who knows?

How would you define what you termed as bizarro horror? How many fiction pieces of this theme have you worked on?
Don’t shoot me if I get this wrong! As far as I can see, is bizarre horror the kind of horror that includes ultra-nasty psychological, sexual and body elements. I’ve done stories were people want to feel living metal everywhere in their body, were an ancient Death-God initiates an acolyte with his nails, or a fetish party where glass shards rip open latex and flesh. How many did I write? God… about twenty so far. I don’t freak out about bodily functions, so I’m comfortable to write in excruciating detail about whatever nastiness I’ve come up. I do this grinning, because I know some reader will feel sick, or aroused, or sick because he/she is aroused.

How many of your personal experiences, if any, were written into your crime fiction? Do you feel comfortable relating those experiences in your work?
Of course there is the theory that you can learn an author’s character by reading his work, and I pretty much believe that is true. At least in my case. I write about what interests me. My characters think and react, up to some level, how I think and react. Of course I don’t go around killing people or such, but when I write about it, it is me doing that shit. On paper, but it’s me. Over the years I’ve used plenty of my own experiences in my stories. Little details from the several jobs I held, plenty of things I experienced with friends and at parties. I’ve been stabbed back in 2009 and I used that in several stories. I don’t mind and I don’t see it as some therapeutic exercise. Those things make unique, good stories and I’ll use them gladly. Maybe I’m just an exhibitionist (all writers are), I sure am a sadist, and I just don’t dwell in the past too much. It happened, I survived, and hopefully I learned a few things. And why not use it? It sure is much easier than making up things! The protagonist in my story Rabbit Burns is a kinky Vietnamese stripper with a big mouth and cynic outlook on live. I couldn’t have written about her, if I wasn’t familiar with those elements. I’m pretty cynical, she is based on several friends and I am familiar enough with her lifestyle to write about in convincingly. Right now I’ve written about ten stories about her, which has a word count of 46,000. If I reach the point of 50k+ words, I’m thinking of hammering it into a kinky noir novel and trying to flog it. Probably small press because I doubt ‘kinky noir’ is anything for the bigger publishers.

How did you come up with the idea for the Rabbit Burns series?
It all started with an anthology which wanted stories about Texan P.I.s in an unusual Texan setting. I’ve never been to Texas and to hide my ignorance, I decided to take a character most people knew little about themselves. Hence a second generation Vietnamese woman living and working in Houston. I decided to throw in some elements I actually knew a bit about, so she became a stripper with a kinky hobby. For that first story she gets hired by her uncle, who has lost his wedding ring with some dominatrix. He can’t go to the cops, and he can’t find the lady, so he goes to the black sheep of the family and hires her to find the dominatrix and his ring. Sadly the story was rejected for that anthology. Later on it was published somewhere else. I actually quite liked the foul mouthed stripper babe (Gee, why?) and I wrote some more stories.

Did you base the characters in the Rabbit Burns novels on people you knew in real life?
Definitely! The black guy is a former Dom of a lady friend of mine, the white Sam is 90% a girl I know and Samurai Girl is a combination of two half Asian lady friends, a no limit dominatrix (She is a fun girl and I tease her merciless, I am one of the few guys who is not scared of her), plus some other friends and a shot of myself. I don’t set out to write people I know into stories, but looking back at a story, I can usually tell what I took from real life and put in. I guess it just makes better characters.

How soon do you expect the next installment of Rabbit Burns to be completed?
It really depends if I can fit her in one of the stories I want to write for one of the anthologies. There is this Christmas noir anthology, but so far three different starts with this lady didn’t work, which usually is a sign to move on. But she will show up, sometime, somewhere.

Of all the genres you have written in, which have you gotten the most from?
That used to be fantasy, but currently its bizarro horror. There are no limits in that genre and you can go as deep and dark as you want. You want to focus on graphic body horror? Sure. You want to put in some perverted erotica? No problem. A sophisticated, twisted universe? There you are.

Do you have any ideas in mind for splatterpunk in space and Christmas noir?
For splatterpunk in space I see aliens with tentacles and a zero-G environment with thousands of decaying human corpses. It won’t be pretty. Right now I’m out of ideas for the Christmas noir story, but something will show up. I mean: happy happy Christmas in combination with the desperation and angst of noir? That is a delicious combination!

Are there other fictional genres besides those we’ve covered you would consider trying out?
Only a fool says he has no limits, but anything legal I am willing to give it at least a try, if the challenge is interesting enough. Which doesn’t mean I wholeheartedly embrace the ideology of any genre. I can do a furry story, without being a furry. Or some religious piece, while being an atheist. Now, that sounds like I’m ready to write anything, but the reality is that in the field of science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime and erotica there are more than enough interesting calls for submissions to keep me busy. For me writing is about having fun. Sure, I like to try out new things, but there isn’t some career path or bucket list. I see plenty of fellow-writers who get frustrated because their work doesn’t sell, in spite of having done a ton of promotion and such. I respect they have ambitions and dreams, but I have neither and that works just fine for me.

Are you thinking up any ideas for a new series of novels to start writing?
I tried many times, and I just get bored around 20,000 words. I’m definitely a short story writer. Ideas are never the problem. That’s what you get from starting out in science fiction, which is a real idea genre. On regular basis I write science fiction stories with a writer friend, Tais Teng. When we are together it’s a barrage of ideas. Our minds really feed on each other. That only seems to work for science fiction and fantasy. Individually we both write horror, but it just doesn’t work together. We are thinking of doing a noir story together, and I really look forward to that. Can we use all those ideas and energy to write dark crime stories? We will find out soon.

Anything you have in mind as far as new short stories?
Right now I should be working on for stories with deadlines at the end of June, but somehow I just can’t get into the right groove to write them. Luckily I write for fun so when that happens, I just pick a story I really want to write. I’m working on a manga-like story with robots, cyborgs, demons in warp space, psy-mutants and inquisitors. We will see where it will lead me.

How much research have you been doing for the manga piece you have in mind?
About five minutes. Did the name of my main character already exist? (No.) And how do maids look like in manga? (Pretty much as I remembered: cute, big-eyed and innocent-sexy.) I always have had a slight fetish (one of a zillion of my slight fetishes) for French Maids, so I know how one looks and behaves (in fiction at least). This won’t be a fetish story, but an anthology like this, will play with those elements. I put her in a steampunk-like environment with an Empire, a military caste, big ass space ships and weird races and villains, and the story writes itself pretty much. My character will be cleaning, saving the world end taking revenge for the death of the love of her life. I have fun tremendous fun writing this because it is very much over the top.
To be honest, nowadays most of my research takes about ten minutes, or thirty minutes tops. Things are way easier to find with on internet, and I by now I know what I need to lie convincingly to my reader. I know what I want to tell and details are color locale, they are not the story. The longer you write, the easier it gets. At least, for me it is.

How soon do you expect this new fictional endeavor to be released officially?
I’ve no idea. The deadline is somewhere in October this year. If the story is accepted and the anthology goes through it will be 2019. Having a story accepted, or even have signed contract doesn’t always mean the story will be published. Plenty of small press and zines go bust. It’s pretty frustrating because that means a story can be out of circulation for two years or longer, but I’ve learned to take it into account. My deal is: if accepted but there is no contract and no communication for over a year, the story is submitted somewhere else.

If you could be remembered as a fiction writer years from now, in what way would you want people to remember?
That dirty, funny Dutch uncle who enjoyed life to the max.

-Dave Wolff