Gotta click the link and hit Marni Mann’s blog to see it (and it’s worth the clickin’)!
When we left off in Billy Purgatory: I Am the Devil Bird, the skateboarding namesake had hitched a ride with the Time Zombie that haunted Billy throughout the first book. In Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five, we initially follow a 10-year-old Billy, who is also holding on tightly to the Time Zombie. Although this may be disconcerting as it was an adult Billy we were following at the end of the first book, all is soon revealed.
Alex Kimmell is an author and a badass. A former rockstar turned to scary-times writer, he will amaze you with his prose and his jump out of your seat debut novel, The Key to Everything.
Now, prepareth! Badassary awaits…
1. The Key to Everything was your first official novel, but your writing seems to have shown up a lot of places in the ramp up to said novel (Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit, TheWordcount Podcast). How important was it for you, or in your opinion any writer, to just start doing it and getting your work out there to the world before you tackled a full-blown bookstravaganza?
I was a songwriter long before I wrote prose. Lyrics and poems were all I ever made a serious attempt at with words before I wrote “the Key to everything”. Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit and Wordcount were great opportunities for me. I’d already written the book and some other short pieces when I decided to approach them. They were very generous with their support and I’m honored to have been involved with their publications and associated with the other fantastic artists they support. Writing in short form for specified themes isstretching different muscles. I highly recommend reaching out to blogs and other avenues of publishing that are available to today’s writers.I don’t do it for the sole purpose of paddingmy resume though, but for the chanceto find new avenues ofexploring the art form.
2. You are from the San Fernando Valley, one of my old stomping grounds when I lived in LA. When did you first get pulled into music and start banging out soundscapes in the garage?
Yeah. I’m a Valley Boy for sure for sure. Gag me with a spoon and all that shit. Skateboards, parachute pants and shopping malls. We did all that crap before it was cool.
Both my parents encouraged me at a young age to play music. When I turned ten, they told me to pick an instrument and stick with it for one year. It was a great way to help me learn discipline andexpose me to my creative side.
Fortunately for me my Mom loved the drums, believe it or not. I fell in love with it during my first lesson and annoyed the neighbors five to eight hours a day for years of wall rattling noise. Most of them were pretty cool with it though. The one asshole on our block moved after a couple of years of it. Some of the kids on the street actually thanked me.
I was in that garage so much that my dad installed a portable air conditioning unit in the side door so I wouldn’t over heat during the hot Southern California summers. I played some sports too and was pretty good. But with red hair and freckles I got picked on and beat up a lot. This was back in the days before bullying was considered a bad thing. The one thing the bullies couldn’t give me shit about was playing drums. My life revolved around it. I got really lucky with my teachers too. I transferred to the Hamilton Academy of Music for my senior year of high school and that helped me get a scholarship at USC.
3. I would imagine having a career in music and performing all the time is very different than being a writer. I trashed a Marriot Suite one time and the security guys asked me if I was a rockstar and I told them no, I was a writer. So I had to pay for everything I broke. You’d be shocked to know just how expensive those awful paintings of sailboats and sunsets really cost (Lord knows my credit card was). So, what’s the reality vs the fiction of being in a rock’n’roll band? Did anyone offer you a cigar? Did they ask you which one was Pink?
Ha! I was pretty mellow compared to the rock star mystique. Most of my wildness came out on stage. I broke drumheads, cymbals and collapsed the arches in my feet from playing barefoot. I used to go on stage in nothing but my boxer shorts because I sweat so much that I ruined my clothes. The heyday was the early nineties’ Hollywood scene. Altrock-tastic!My band played everywhere. We played the Whiskey a go-go, the Roxy, the Troubador… we gigged all the time at every spot place on the Sunset Strip. A few bands that are pretty famous now used to open for us. Unfortunately my band imploded before we took off to any national success. Oh well. Typical rock and roll story I guess. Most of the juicy details must be kept under wraps to protect the guilty.
4. You transitioned from music to writing, partly due to wanting to find new expression and learning how to channel all that while working through the realization that you had Multiple Sclerosis. It must have taken a tremendous amount of strength and determination in going from one very challenging creative career and diving headfirst into an altogether new one? What was your major motivating factor and what kept you going as you figured the whole book writing experience out?
My wife made me do it. It’s as simple as that. Since I inhaled books like oxygen my entire life and wrote lyrics constantly, she suggested I try my hand at prose since my body refused to cooperate with the coordination I’d need to keep performing music to the level I needed and wanted. At first it was really fucking difficult. I thought everything I did was crap. I’d come up with some idea and write ten or fifteen pages. Then I’d delete it without showing anyone. Eventually she forced her way on to my computer and started reading. To my surprise, she liked some of it. So I kept going. To keep my creative expression juices flowing, I kept writing. Not for anyone to read, but for myself.
A friend of mine forced me to sign up on Facebook. I didn’t want to, but he not only twisted my arm, he created my account. The next morning I had close to one hundred friends saying hello that I hadn’t spoken too since we were kids. It was a great tool to catch up and stay current with everybody.
I started blogging. Mostly complaining about everything that drove me crazy, which is my real favorite hobby. I put up a couple of short ideas and started getting some nice feedback from people. Of course I thought they were just being nice.
Then a friend told me she liked the blog and wanted me to send her a few pieces to read. Apparently she liked them because she asked if she could show them to her boss. Why not right? Turns out it was Katherine and Ken from Booktrope. They both were interested in publishing something if I was willing to turn one of my ideas into a novel. I’d never given it much thought, but I figured I’d try. That turned into “the Key to everything”. Mostly luck, technology and some very amazing support from my wife and a few good friends made it happen.
5. The Key to Everything is a fantastic book, and it’s been likened more than once to classic Stephen King, which is never a bad thing? Why horror? How do you approach the horror genre to keep it fresh and interesting?
Thank you so much for the compliment. I’m honored that people even mention the book in the same conversation as Stephen King. When I first started reading the genre as a kid, his stories were the first I was exposed to. My dad gave me some Tolkein, Heinlein and Bradbury pretty early on. From Science Fiction and Fantasy the leap to horror was a fairly smooth transition. Monsters and mystery and nightmare fodder oh my! I remember buying Pet Sematary in the Crown Bookseller at the Northridge Mall with my allowance money. That was the first one for me. The image of the cat on the cover looked exactly like my cat Taffy at home. I read the description on the back and it sounded spooky cool. I liked it, so I continued reading his books whenever I could. I moved on to Christine, Night Shift, Cycle of the Werewolf, The Shining and Carrie. My favorite at the time was The Talismanthat King wrote with Peter Straub. It changed everything for me. The way it blended horror with fantasy was unlike anything else I knew existed before.
My approach to horror isn’t completely defined as of yet. I’ll have a bad dream or a flash of an idea that swells below my skin, dying to turn into a story. I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of “write what you know”. I don’t have any experience being hunted by demonic squirrels or transported physically inside the pages of a book. I don’t think Ian Flemming had many personal adventures as a super spy with a license to kill. Tolkein wasn’t a Hobbit. That had no bearing on whether the stories they wrote were believable or not. Harlan Ellison said, “Write what you want to read.” When I first heard that, the world opened up. I spent so much time as a songwriter attempting to compose sounds that I wanted to hear. It didn’t take Vulcan logic for me to transfer that same concept to the prose I write.
Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts can be extremely terrifying in the right story when written well. However, the majority of what frightens me, and what I tend to write, comes from a more skewed view of the world. Looking at objects and every day concepts we unconsciously rely on as they behave in ways far removed from how they are supposed to. Take squirrels for example. If having read my book you’ll never see them the same way again, then I’ll have been successful.
6. Was King an influence on your work? Who else within the horror genre do you respect and count as major influences and inspirations for your work?
I picked up a Stephen King novel for the first time in years only recently. When writing became something I focused on seriously, I hadn’t read one of his books in years. While I can’t say he was a conscious influence, his books affected me so much during my formative years that he is in there for sure. I learned a lot by reading his book with a writer’s eye, rather than as a passive audience. I can only hope that some of what entered into my mind will escape on to the pages of my future work. There’s definitely a reason he is such a huge success. What an amazing storyteller.
Some of my major influences haven’t been as publicly successful. John Ajvide Lindquist is one of the best authors out there these days. Every time I hear that a new work of his is being translated into English, I can hardly contain myself.
I’ve read every book by Michael Marshall Smith at least twice. The way his plotlines unfold continually surprises and inspires me. There is one particular scene in his book “The Straw Men” that I re-read over and over. It’s a gunfight in a fast food restaurant that turns my knuckles white even though I know exactly what’s coming next. He isn’t what I would describe as a “horror” author though. He is more thriller and science fiction. I can’t recommend him enough.
Mark Z. Danielewski is perhaps one of the writers changing the world of books and electronic publishing as we know it. His book “House of Leaves” changed my life. I currently have three copies of it in the house now, not including the ebook version I have on my son’s iPad. His work can be frustrating at times and even somewhat pretentious, but it’s always challenging and beautiful.
One of the greatest living wordsmiths in my opinion is Harlan Ellison. “Deathbird Stories” is a must read for any fan of horror and science fiction. Not only does he write incredible books, his episodes of Star Trek and the Twilight Zone are legendary.
The same can be said for Richard Matheson. “I Am Legend, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, “The Box”, “Duel”, “What Dreams May Come”…His bibliography of incredibleness goes on and on. Every time I open one of his stories I am instantly transported into other worlds that are sometimes terrifying, often beautiful beyond belief, but always wonderful.
Because they can’t go without some brief mention, I am humbled and driven by incredibleimaginationsof Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Neil Gaiman and of course Clive Barker. I could go on, but the list is way too long.
7. I write about vampires, and Time Zombies, and yetis. For you, your muse seems to be the squirrel. Where did the ‘squirrel-thulian mythos’ originate? Did you think you might be nuts when suddenly squirrels began haunting your dreams and your chapters?
The squirrelpocalypse is coming. Mark my words!
I find it so funny how many people ask me, “Why do you hate squirrels so much?” That entire part of tK2e came to me spur of the moment. I was searching for a small, somewhat harmless and commonplace animal that people typically take for granted. My goal was to create an underlying sense of discomfort with reality in the world of the story. Snakes, spiders, vampires and werewolves are scary in their own right. They provoke instant, primal images of fear and raise the hackles on the backs of our necks based on developed historical associations. While the common squirrel might be a nuisance, it’s not an animal that the majority of people are terrified of.
The moment I landed on using the squirrel for my “beast” turns out to be relatively prosaic. I was working on an early scene in the book and a squirrel stood on the wall outside my studio window. That was it. I thought to myself, “What would this animal have to do to make me ruin my pants right now?” The rest is history.
8. I had a buddy call me one night when I lived in LA, he ran a bar that was rented out for a private party and he related to me the following: Melissa Ethridge, Steven Spielberg, Mike Meyers, and Slash all have their chairs pulled into a circle and they’re just hanging out and talking at this birthday party.
It’s a conversation that I’ve imagined more than once in my head.
What’s the best famous people story that you can relate to us? (and not get either one of us sued, cause I don’t need another lawsuit like that time I bagged on the Sham-Wow guy)
During my time in L.A., I was fortunate enough to meet quite a few of my musical heroes. Some I played with, some I was introduced to backstage at shows and others I made a blubbering mess of myself in front of. In a few unfortunate situations, all three occurred at the same time.
When my boys were little they shared an indoor playground late one night with Don Cheadle’s kids. Calista Flockheart used to bring her son to the same park we went to and I struck up a few conversations with her. I went to high school with one guy who went on to become a relatively popular actor in a television show named after a famous L.A. neighborhood and its zip code. There’s a picture in my yearbook where I’m dropping him headfirst into a trashcan with help from another fellow classmate who now plays drums for a former Beatle.
I won’t go into any of the drug and alcohol fueled or “spicy” events. Like you say, I’d prefer not to run afoul of the law. Most of my stories are pretty tame. No trashing hotel rooms or shark related Zeppelin-esque tales of debauchery.
For any Elliott Smith fans, I spent a very nice coffee break with himthat I wrote about on my old blog. You can see the full story at: everythinghappenstomeshuh.blogspot.com/2010/04/one-of-my-favorite-hours.html
9. What’s the perfect balance of family life and retreating into your writing cave? Writers oftentimes (like, me) have issues balancing family, work, and writing – so how about you?
If there is such a thing as a perfect balance, I haven’t found it yet. I don’t have a writing cave anymore either. I put my laptop here on the dining room table and try to block out the world. It’s a double edged sword, but I don’t have a job. That’s good for my writing because it gives me time when the kids are at school and my wife’s at work. I have to do the majority of my typing left handed due to my receding coordination, so I struggle along at a snail’s pace. I’m taking some time attempting to learn how to use Dragon though. Hopefully that’ll help.
10. Is Lovecraft too much a part of pop-culture nowadays and is he getting played out? We do live in a world where Cthulhu-plushies exist, after all.
I could ask the same question about vampires, werewolves and zombies. We live in a culture of numbness. We’ve been exposed to it all. Vampires aren’t the stuff of nightmares anymore. They sparkle and have dreamy eyes. Werewolves are buffed out surf wear models. We even find ways to cute-up a reanimated corpse to tantalize the tween audiences.
An enormous portion of the genre is fighting really hard to capture the attention spans of young girls. And why not? After all, they spend the lion share of dollars on entertainment. Face it, full bore heavy metal has never sold as many records as pop music. It never will. When it becomes watered down and made “safe”, then it can explode into pop culture.
Humans aren’t as afraid of the dark as we used to be. Electricity and three hundred channels broadcasting twenty-four-seven. The interwebbuilds walls between us and the realities of horror occurring on the other side of the real world, or as close to home as next door. We’re numb. That’s why Cthulhu-plushies and sparkly boyfriend/bloodsuckers are so mainstream. If we embrace the nightmares tightly enough, they might just hug us back.
The argument can be made that most Twihards haven’t read “Dracula” or “I Am Legend”, let alone “The Necronimicon”. While I prefer the horror stories I read or see at the movies to be frightening, there is a large audience that prefers a more soap operatic approach to their monsters. And that’s okay.
Can’t say it doesn’t get under my skin though. ;?)
11. What’s next for:
Alex Kimmell, Author?
Breathing. I expect quite a bit more creation of CO2. That’s the hope anyway. Oh, and writing stories that will hopefully creep people out as much about other things as tK2e apparently has for the squirrel population.
The Key to Everything? Sequels?Prequels? Movie deals?
I haven’t thought much about expanding on the tK2e storyline. Although a movie deal would be exciting of course. If anyone is interested in the rights, send me an email and we can tell our people to get their people to have brunch and discuss sending their people out for drinks to make plans for their interns to actually read the book, write an op ed in their college paper where it won’t be published so it gets posted on their blog that their Junior JuniorUnder Producer supervisor is unknowingly subscribed to themailing list for. The supervisor will recognize the title line “the Key to everything or Nuts and Vowels. Don’t Read That Yarned Book Dumbass ‘Cuz the Squirrels Be Crazy!”, have his assistant read the blog and will then schedule a round of brunches for the peons to start the whole thing over again. Eventually some bigshot might bring the book up in conversation at Spagos with an executive at a rival motion picture house who will say, “I think we’re talking to the author about the rights for that.” “Oh, really? We were thinking it might be the next Twilight franchise.” They’ll politely excuse themselves from the party, frantically hit the speed dial on their cell phones and I’ll be the next bidding war fodder for the Hollywood Reporter. Next stop…the Oscars!
I’m currently working on a collection of short stories that will hopefully be out this year and novel No.2 is slowly gestating in the womb. I’ve been in discussions with a friend of mine to start work a multimedia piece as well. I really look forward to see what we come up with for that. Stay tuned kiddies!
alexkimmell (the squirrel whisperer/twodoggarage/daddy not-so-much-bucks) is an accidental novelist, anti-rhyme-ologist, oxygen inhaler, carbon dioxide exhaler and the funniest man in his pants who often generates harmonious sounds with various instruments of different historical importance. his work has appeared on cool places around the www like Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit, The Wordcount Podcast, and his debut novel “the Key to everything” was released by Booktrope Publishing in 2012. come and join the neurosis at alexkimmell.weebly.com
Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five is the second book in Jesse James Freeman’s Billy Purgatory series. He has been at war with dark forces (stuff like: cobras, lasers, yetis) his entire life. He enjoys Tweeting, scented candles, and waffles. He is hard at work on Billy Purgatory 3 and an epic poem entitled Witches vs Robots.
Almost two years ago (which is an eternity in internet-time, it makes me feel like one of those old Jedi Knights — but not Yoda. Probably like one of the other weird alien looking ones — like a scary badass Pikachu) I met author Robert Pruneda on Twitter. That was our hang-out spot, like that diner where Opie used to hang out with John Travolta from Grease.
Which reminds me…
…what was I talking about?
Oh, Rob is super-cool and he has a new book out called The Devil’s Nightmare (but forget I said that part so you’ll be surprised later when I bring it up in a question) and I asked if he would give up the straight-dope about some important topics that are currently shaping our world … like yetis.
Robert Pruneda is @SharkbaitWrites on Twitter so I call him Sharky, because he already came up with that and I’m lazy with nicknames.
So prepareth now as we being the ritual known as:
11 Questions of Badassary!
1. So reading and drawing your own comics was a part of your earliest creative processes – it was for me too. I was in one of those hippie creative-artsy classes and when we got done early with our workbook nonsense we got to raid the art supply closet. The comics were pretty bad, we’d grid out manila paper and draw Indiana Jones, but he’d be like a bug. Those big Mayan temples were kinda ant hills too.
How important was that for you in setting you down the path toward telling stories?
My brother was actually a big inspiration for me early on when I was a mere Halfling drawing comic books. He created comics himself and also took a stab at writing short stories based on his favorite Dungeons & Dragons character Silhouette, a ninja assassin. My brother was a bit of a role model for me back in the day, so naturally I tried to follow in his footsteps and began creating my own stories. I would sit in the living room with The Flinstones playing on the tube and my map pencils, #2 pencil, and Elmer’s glue at the ready, all which were essential tools for a budding self-publisher. My first self-published work was Katie vs. the Ameoba (yes, it’s spelled wrong, but I was a kid, okay). J Think giant snake vs. a mutated version of Godzilla with six clawed tentacles. I’m still waiting for Universal Studios to contact me about the movie adaptation.
2. Then what did those earliest creations morph into? When did you get it into your head that wanted to become serious about being a writer and how did you approach it?
After my brother joined the Marine Corps and fought in Operation Desert Storm, I began drawing my next comic titled, The Marines. I know, catchy title . . . and original too! As I grew up for one reason or another the creative mind took a back seat to video games, school, and thinking about what I wanted to do for a living. It wasn’t until many years later during a dry spell in the employment arena that I started thinking about telling stories through writing again. It was always on the back of my mind, but when I was unemployed I had a lot of time on my hands. It was then that I decided that I was going to stop thinking about writing a novel and just do it. That’s when Pursuit of a Dream was born. Fast forward to my career as a newspaper dude and the age of e-readers and you have the formula for a novelist in the making. Being around journalists all day and in the publishing environment day in and day out really sparked my interest in publishing. After nearly seven years with the newspaper as an obituaries coordinator and advertising rep, and some major differences of opinions with new management, I parted ways and decided to pursue my dream of working from home and writing novels. I took a huge risk in doing so, but I think it was the best decision of my life, and I’m enjoying every moment of it.
3. How difficult was the process of making your first book Pursuit of a Dream a reality and not like a dream anymore (see what I did there?). Why did you decide to go indie and not seek out a traditional publisher? While we’re on the topic, tell us about the book and how you feel the story has resonated with your readers?
Ha! Clever move, my friend.
When I published Pursuit of a Dream I knew absolutely nothing about the process of getting a book into print aside from what I had read in Writer’s Digest magazine. It was through that magazine that I responded to an ad from AuthorHouse (I know, I know). I had no intention of sharing this book with the world at the time. I just wanted to write the story and get it in print as a personal goal. I ended up paying this vanity press around $800 by the time it was all done. In hindsight it was a waste of money, but at the time I felt it was worth it when I held the book in my hands. I think any author can relate to that feeling of holding your first printed book in your hands. My debut novel has since been revised and self-published for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords.
Pursuit of a Dream follows the story of a kid with a dream of becoming a professional stock car driver. While the story does involve racing, as I am a fan of NASCAR, I feel it resonates to readers who may not be racing fans also because the story is much more than just motor sports. In a way it’s kind of my own story of pursuing my own dreams of working for myself and writing for a living. Most people who have read Pursuit of a Dream have told me that they have enjoyed it and since I never wrote the book for profit anyway, I gave what little royalties I made away at one time to a campaign to help a fellow author’s son who was fighting Leukemia. Pursuit of a Dream is now free on Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords. Over 1,200 readers have downloaded Pursuit of a Dream since I began giving it away in January.
I’ve always considered trekking down the traditional route, but I feel the flexibility and having full control of the indie publishing process is what works best for me. This may change in the future, but right now I’m an Indie. This, however, does not mean I’m going at it alone. There is still a team involved, which is a whole other post altogether.
4. You day-jobbed it at the local paper as an obituaries coordinator and you have on more than one occasion driven a hearse (I don’t know, maybe that’s night-jobbing it?). Did that give you any special insight into the metaphysical-more-big-words nature of life and death? The afterworld? Have you ever had an experience with a ghost or other paranormal this-n-that’s that you can’t explain?
I see dead people. My life as an obituaries coordinator was definitely one of the most interesting job’s I have ever had and I’ve learned a lot about the funeral industry since then through my associations with funeral home directors. When I left the newspaper one of the local funeral home owners asked me if I would be interested in helping out for extra green while I started heading down the path of self-employment. I agreed and now night-job it at the funeral home from time to time. Rumor has it there is a ghost in the funeral home, but I have yet to experience it personally. However, I sure as hell have some material for a future horror novel. J I have to say working at a funeral home has been . . . interesting to say the least.
On a serious note, the first time I drove the hearse was for a WWII veteran’s funeral, and considering how much I support our military, I was very honored to do so. One of the directors keeps asking me about going to mortuary school, but I think I’ll pass. I’ll stick to writing and operating my administrative support business from home.
5. You own a 1981 Corvette Stingray? Did you watch that show called Stingray? It was kinda cool huh? About this ex-government badass who was a Navy Seal or used to work for the IRS or something and he drove a Stingray so he called himself Stingray. It sounds like a great story to pickup girls “Hey, my name is Stingray. I didn’t make that up, these snipers did because I’m such a badass and I know how to survive in the jungle just eating snakes and coconuts. I’m a Virgo.”
Stingray does sound bad-ass. I need to go do some web surfing and check it out. That ex-IRS government operative Stingray dude does sounds like a badass, but he doesn’t hold a candle to the intimidating badassary of “Sharky” vV””Vv J. I may eat PB&J sandwiches and chocolate milk, but don’t let that fool you. I’ll take on that Stingray guy any day. (Where’s my stunt double?)
6. What about Automan? That shit was kinda lame and I didn’t buy it for a second, it’s called suspension of disbelief not total-disregard of disbelief, right?
Agreed. While we’re on the subject of Hollywood car stuff, we can’t forget that bad-ass car Kitt from Knight Rider. We all know that Hasseloff took the back seat to Kitt and was really the co-star.
Who would win in a fight against Airwolf and Blue Thunder?
Blue Thunder! Only because the bad-ass piloting that chopper is the same dude that went fist to fin with a monster Great White shark and won . . . TWICE.
What about Street Hawk vs Knight Rider?
Knight Rider of course (and not because of that Baywatch dude). Kitt is the real bad-ass in that series.
Beau Arthur vs Manimal?
Bea Arthur. Have you even seen Golden Girls? I wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with her. Yikes!
7. Speaking of Beau Arthur, your brand new thriller is called Devil’s Nightmare. Crack and ostrich egg of knowledge on our ass and burn us into a literary omelet with some details of this very exciting new book.
Contrary to popular belief Bea Arthur doesn’t actually have a cameo appearance in Devil’s Nightmare that I’m aware of. Horror is my favorite genre and it was only natural for me to take a crack at it, and from what I’ve heard from readers so far, it does fall into the category of bad-ass entertainment. You won’t find any cutesy Care Bears in this story. You also won’t find a long drawn out story line before we get into the action. No sir, you get thrown right into the blood, guts and decapitations of the story from the get go. It’s a page turner and has just enough horror elements in it to keep it creepy, but also isn’t smothered in blood and gore – that’s what Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger are for, and they don’t have starring roles here (although, Voorhees did ask).
Devil’s Nightmare is written from the perspective of Detective Aaron Sanders, a bad-ass cop with an attitude who’s investigating the brutal deaths of two adults and three youths. All but one victim is dismembered and decapitated. This investigation put Sanders on edge and he may have a bit of a chip on his shoulder sometimes, which gives him personality. His demeanor may not even resemble that of your everyday big city cop, but that is by no means a flaw. Real cops can be found on one of those late night “Reality TV” shows. Devil’s Nightmare doesn’t give you that; it doesn’t have a TV crew following Sanders around with a producer trying to pull the strings. This horror-thriller isn’t going to teach you the ins and outs of law enforcement policy and procedure either. No, Devil’s Nightmare is going to entertain you, keep you turning the pages, and creep the hell out of you. That’s the goal, and from what I’ve heard so far, that goal has been met. So, put that TV remote away (you can’t watch reruns of Baywatch and Cops later), and snag yourself a copy of Devil’s Nightmare and find out for yourself. There will be blood.
8. So there’s a cop and he’s investigating crazy shit in Texas. How come it’s always Texas were the weird stuff goes down? How come it’s always cops? Why isn’t it ever a plumber who comes across a secret Satanic conspiracy and goes, “I should totally solve this and save the world. Cause I’m a plumber and I know how to problem solve and track down clues. I have a big-ass wrench, so get thee behind me.”?
Hollywood always has the crazy shit happening in New York City, L.A., and Chicago. Ha! You and I both know the real weirdness and bad-ass stuff is happening right here in the Lone Star State. Texas is where it’s all going down.
Let’s talk about those plumbers, shall we? I think plumbers have been stereotyped. Thank you, Nintendo, for turning our bad-ass wrench-wielding plumbers into a little man jumping around with a plunger and riding on a chubby dinosaur collecting gold coins. I mean, seriously, who does he think he’s intimidating? Give that plumber an M60 and a grenade launcher and then you have a kick-ass hero.
9. You and I both live in Texas, but because it’s Texas it’s like we both live on different planets. I would have run over and had some beers and done this interview live, but it’s like a 17 hour drive. What’s the Yeti to chupacabra ratio over in your part of the state like? Is the coastal yeti hunting kit different than the lonely double-wide in the woods yeti hunting kit that I have?
I think it’s like 10:1 Chupacabra:Yeti, but that’s just based on the last U.S. Government census. I’m sure the yetis lied on the form to keep us yeti hunters guessing.
10. You’re a gamer, I can tell you are because you’d have 18 books released by now on Kindle. What games are you playing now?
I’ll have to get back to you on that . . . I need to finish this side quest on Elder Scrolls: Skyrim first. Oh, wait, it’s a question about video games. I’m currently playing Black Ops 2, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and Borderlands 2. There are a ton of other games that are in my queue, but those are what I’m playing right now. I have to admit that being a gamer does make it very hard to also be a writer. Now, back to the game . . .
Best game platform ever?
Crap! I forget to save my game before stepping away for the rest of the interview. There goes 20 hours of dungeon dwelling down the tube.
I’m torn between PC and console. I think back in the day I would definitely say PC because I was mainly an RPG player. I loved playing games like Baldur’s Gate, but nowadays you have to have something like a $20,000 computer in order to get the best out of PC games nowadays. So, I’m more of a console player now. That could very well change if I’m able to build a better computer after all those new downloads of Devil’s Nightmare following this interview of course. Hint! Hint!
Nostalgically, what was the best game system from back in the day?
I know the popular choice would be to say the Atari 2600, but (buzz) wrong, I have to say the good ‘ol Mattel Intellivision system, followed by the Sega Genesis. Games nowadays have awesome graphics and sound, but there still nothing like the games of the 80s where you really had to you use your imagination to get the feel of the adventure. I still have my original Intellivision that still works (barely) and another that I bought on eBay that’s in good condition. When I’m feeling all nostalgic, I’ll hook up my Intellivision to my LED TV and kick ass. However, going from Black Ops 2 (2012) to Commandos (1987) is quite a bit of a shock to the system.
11. Is the Devil’s Nightmare going to be a series?
Yes, I’ve decided that Devil’s Nightmare will be at least a three-part series. I’m in the brainstorming stages of Book 2 right now.
When can we expect more Sharky books?
My plan is to have at least one book published this year, possibly two. It all depends on various factors.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the sequel to Pursuit of a Dream, currently untitled. I may also begin working on the sequel to Devil’s Nightmare soon (also untitled).
Thanks for hosting me on your site, JJ. We definitely need to hook up in Austin sometime to do some demon and yeti hunting. There’s always the ComicCon event in November too. I’m sure the yetis will try to blend into the crowds there. We may have difficulty getting our Acme yeti traps through security though.
Robert Pruneda is author of Devil’s Nightmare and Pursuit of a Dream, the first book in a trilogy. AuthorHouse published Pursuit of a Dream in 2004; Pruneda later published a revised e-Book edition of Pursuit of a Dream for the Kindle on September 10, 2011. Pruneda has recently published the supernatural horror Devil’s Nightmare which is now available on Kindle.
Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five is the second book in Jesse James Freeman’s Billy Purgatory series. He has been at war with dark forces (stuff like: cobras, lasers, yetis) his entire life. He enjoys Tweeting, scented candles, and waffles. He is hard at work on Billy Purgatory 3 and an epic poem entitled Witches vs Robots.
If you have a caring heart, like Erin Grey…
I’ve had some down-time lately, and this has allowed me to catch up on some reading; and by down-time I mean that incident at the Winter Carnival (which I can’t talk about according to my court-appointed lawyer, but I will say that driving a tractor with a goat as your co-pilot should not be considered reckless endangerment, anyone who’s had to sit through a Law & Order marathon on TNT knows that). There are only so many hours in the day I can Tweet Ralph Macchio to taunt him into agreeing to fight me in the Valley Karate Championship, and after a case of Schlitz the thrill of that life goal kinda wears off and seems zenfully shallow.
Since it is winter, all the creeks have frozen up and the elusive Yeti has gone into hibernation, which always strikes me as a little odd — shouldn’t winter be prime-time for Yetis? But I digress, the point of this article is to illustrate that I needed something to do to occupy my brain, steel-trap beasts like that brain of mine need to stay well oiled or they become rusty, like that C3-PO that Dorothy found on the Yellow Brick road to Oz near those talking trees.
Talking trees are total dicks, fyi.
After I played a few games of Words With Friends and kicked Karla Nellenbach and Alec Baldwin’s ass by using the words Fahrvergnügen and Bassoon in a combination they just weren’t ready for, I decided that I needed something fresh and unique to set my synapses all a-flutter.
It also had to be something that wouldn’t set off the electronic ankle-bracelet.
This is when I discovered that I had been emailed an advance copy of a new book by Tess Thompson entitled Caramel and Magnolias. Now, the title was instantly intriguing, as I have known two pleasant young ladies in my past who happened to be named Caramel and Magnolia respectively. I quickly discovered by doing a word search on the document that these were not the same ladies, as glitter wasn’t used once in the manuscript.
Still, why not? I decided to read (well, some parts I had my Uncle Lester Earl read out loud to me, because he sounds everything out and it was kinda funny, but ultimately distracting).
As I dug deeper into this book, I wasn’t ready for what was being presented to me. What was this strange world that Tess Thompson had created? Who were these people? When would we find out that the Loch Ness Monster was involved?
Turns out, this was one of those romantical books.
See, there’s this nice schoolteacher lady named Cleo, with a broken-heart from something that happened to her in her past that involved a box of donuts (before you jump to conclusions, you’re probably thinking the same thing that I was, but it turns out it’s not that). Then there was this other lady named Sylvia who wanted to have a baby and, right when she thinks she’s got everything she wants, tragedy strikes. Turns out Sylvia has a longing-heart, she’s in love with this dude and he’s in love with her too, but neither one of them will tell one another. So, it made me go, “Dude, tell her you love her and stuff. Cause if you don’t then you’re gonna be an old man and have this weird bucket-list and one of the things you have to check off is going to the Walgreens and buying a Hey, I’m an old dude now, and I should have told you that I loved you card with a picture of a cute kitten on the front of it…
Just letting you all know, you’d think that cute kitten card trick would work, but turns out the rate of success in real-world scenarios is not that high.
For guys like me, that are totally in touch with their emotions and Deepak Chopra talks to you in your head like Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was easy to get wrapped up in this story. The characters are very well written and have interesting back-stories (I never thought I’d admit something like this, but the character work in this is even better than the cast of The Expendables, and that had Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger).
The more I think about Caramel and Magnolias, the more I consider that it’s not just about all that love stuff, there’s cross-genre appeal (I just copied cross-genre appeal out of an article about The Hunger Games, so you’re welcome, universe). There’s buddy cop stuff going on, there’s crime and intrigue, there’s a little solving a murder sprinkled in. The only thing missing really is Space Marine, and I can’t fault Tess Thompson on that — because after Aliens where do you go with it that hasn’t already been covered?
And in case I freaked you out above by talking about cute cat pictures, there’s a mean cat in this book. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not a werewolf pretending to be a cat. We’ll have to wait for a sequel to learn the truth on that one. If it’s set in London and Jenny Agutter offers to take care of someone then Tess Thompson will have already tipped her hand to the involvement of a secret lycanthrope conspiracy.
The cats in this book didn’t need to be cute anyway, there’s babies that take care of that action. For those of you who love cute babies with dimpled chins, this book is for you. I am glad to see cute babies getting their due in modern fiction. I was just reading some Dan Brown the other day (okay, I was watching that movie because the cable company forgot to lock the box that turns off my HBO) and I was saying to myself “You know, you good looking badass, you — Tom Cruise does a good job solving these mysteries and running through the Vatican, but could he take care of a baby?” I’m calling you out, Top Gun. Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson have got nothing to prove in the baby taking-care-of department. So far, all we know about you is that you take after-volleyball showers at Kelly McGillis’s house and talk to a soccer ball.
So, if you’re not like my Uncle Lester Earl and you didn’t quit school in the 5th grade so you could run away with the carnival, therefore, know how to read books, Caramel and Magnolias has something for you.
Read these words and let Tess Thompson school you on babies, and love, and cops, and cops in love, and pianos, and how to make stuff out of glass, and beer. You should get off the sidelines, and read Caramel and Magnolias.
(In the interest of full disclosure, and since I cannot afford two lawyers at the same time, I am a part of the Booktrope family, who is the publisher of Caramel and Magnolias. Tess Thompson or Booktrope in no way endorsed this article (or even wanted it) and Tess did not pay me $20 to write it, even though I might have asked her to. What? I was drunk.)
Tess Thompson is a mother before all else, and a writer after that. She’s also a Zumba queen, though the wearing of the crown is reserved for invitation-only appearances. After honing her craft in theater with a prize-winning play titled My Lady’s Hand, her heart was called to a different storytelling medium: the great American novel.
And all was right with the world.
The first of these, Riversong (Booktrope Editions), went on to become #1 on Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book chart in October 2011. Two years after its release, readership ofRiversong continued to grow, spending weeks in the top 100 Kindle bestsellers; it’s known amongst her friends and family as “the little book that could.”
And now, I try and sell you Schlitz…
Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five is the second book in Jesse James Freeman’s Billy Purgatory series. He has been at war with dark forces (stuff like: cobras, lasers, yetis) his entire life. He enjoys Tweeting, scented candles, and waffles. He is hard at work on Billy Purgatory 3 and an epic poem entitled Witches vs Robots.
Being interviewed on this blog is an exhaustive scientific process under normal circumstances. There is form and function involved, but it really never goes places that I don’t expect. I’m not doing something important here, like curing bad breath (because Budweiser already does that). Normally the tried and true system works with me writing out the questions and then scanning them into email. Something like…
This is the protocol that I followed with Sarah Martinez (then I passed out after downing a bottle of the finest plastic-bottled Scotch that money could buy). I guess I wasn’t ready for the epicosity that would one day arrive back in my email box.
I read it and I thought it was fantastico. I thought that there were some pretty heavy/intriguing topics in the book, and it’s one of those reads that stayed with me for days while I tried to figure out what it all meant.
So, I was out working on my moonshine still (aka typical Thursday night) and I said to myself, “I’m using way too much brain power on all this. Why don’t I just ask Sarah to talk about her book, and life, and what’s the nature of the human condition?” I realized that I was sitting on this old oil drum in the same pose as that Thinker statue dude. Yes, I was naked, but I don’t normally pose like that when I’m making shine.
I wrote out my questions and emailed, then Sarah’s lawyers emailed me back (this is a normal step in the process), then KSears was like, “Why are you talking to Sarah? She’s busy writing books? And, where are my…
I found out Sarah was having this big fancy launch party in someplace called Seattle. I thought about hitting that, because nobody does fancy like me. I couldn’t find my tuxedo-T-shirt (and I didn’t know where Seattle was). There was tons of important book stuff going on there though:
Anyhow, when all was said and done, Sarah emailed me back her answers – 10 pages of answers! Obviously, she thinks I’m a legit journalist or something.
So prepareth for reading-time of awesomeness, as I present here the novella which is
Sarah Martinez Answers 11 Questions of Badassary!
So, I was reading your book and like the main character is a writer who writes erotica and like there’s erotica that goes down in the book and so I was saying, “This is like one of those paintings that has one of those paintings in it and that has a painting in that and it goes on for infinity until the painting gets all tiny.”
So, should there be more books that have tiny paintings in them?
Not if there aren’t authors who want to write them. I wrote Sex and Death in the American Novel in the middle of a pretty hard core obsession with two authors. I saw one as the road to madness and the other the road to salvation, and somewhere as I read more, I fell in love with the one who represented madness. So this book is a weird assed way for me to try and express that.
There is the element of me addressing my favorite authors, and in the book I am writing about the experience of writing and you are reading about what it means to be a reader. It is a whole circular thing and it ended for me when I got to give the book to one of my favorite authors when he came to town. I think that was where the book ended for me, if that makes sense. Now I am ready to move on to the next thing.
I also love writers so I was very interested in all the discussions of process and how many of us work, how many of us are judged, how we judge ourselves, how we judge others, and how outsiders judge what we write.
There’s a lot more going on in your book than Sex and Death–but the sex is definitely there. What’s the secret to writing the sexy times? A lot of people are writing about the sexy times lately, but I’m not so sure a lot of us are doing it right. When I try to write that kinda stuff I don’t think I do a very good job at it–but I’m a guy and I think I’ve accomplished something groundbreaking if I can just work “boobs” into a sentence.
Why do you think that is?
Dude, here’s an exercise for you. Think of the five words you really really aren’t supposed to say, let alone write. Pick the worst one. Then write for ten minutes using that word in every line. Not every sentence, every line. I stole that from Jack Remick, and a version of this exercise can also be found in The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.
Jack Remick and I will be doing a class that will cover writing sex scenes for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association on November 3rd. There should also be a webinar so you can look it up later. I am excited about this class, and working with writers who want to write past what they are afraid to talk about.
In my case anyway, when I got past all the self-censoring I was doing and moved into trying to be as honest and true to what I was afraid of and badly wanted to say, it opened up so many more aspects of my work. I could say I was pissed at my father and that I in fact hated him at times, because I let that barrier down. Letting down the walls that keep us from writing honestly about sex also opens up the ability to talk about other aspects of our lives.
The key to writing sex or anything really, is to put all of yourself into it. Study others who have done it well—for you, don’t listen to what others say is a good scene if it doesn’t work for you—and keep practicing. Like sex itself, the more you do, the better at it you become and the more aware and present you are for the whole deal, the more you will get out of it.
Writing is about awareness, honesty, respect for your topic, and fearlessness. When I am afraid of something is when I find I want to skim over it. The need to skip over a topic should be a clue that it may need some attention. Even if that only ends up being one line in the final draft, it probably should be addressed.
I also think that starting from a really radical place and revising for audience is the way to go. Throw everything you have at the scene you are writing, and then tame it if you need to. But if you write tame in the first place, you risk losing the special bit that comes out when you let yourself go. Knowing you I am actually surprised you would have a hard time with this. Pretend you are on twitter and you have to be as explicit as you can in your descriptions. What key words would you have to use to make your points if you were attempting to shock, seduce or enchant? Let yourself go and I think you will be surprised at what you come up with.
I have been finding some phenomenal male writers lately who address sex in their work. Marco Vassi’sThe Stoned Apocalypse, as well as The Gentle Degenerates, areimportant, as is anything and everything by Junot Diaz. He just published some of his best short stories in the collection This is How You Lose Her. His short story “Alma” is one of my favorites. The actual sex scene there is short but very well done and the entire story is infused with this dark sexually charged energy.
Jack Remick handled sex quite a bit in his outstanding book, Blood. Also David Steinberg, someone who I have recently connected with, has years’ worth of essays up at:
I am just beginning to read these, but even just his reasons for writing sound exactly like what I have been saying for a while. His work reminds me a lot of the honesty and a certain type of hope I was so drawn to in Marco Vassi.
Your blog addresses a lot of topics: writing, literature, relationships, sex. Beyond self-promotion, what sort of discussions are really important to you to engage in with readers? What are the sorts of dialogues you feel are crucial to keep relevant currently? What should we be talking about more openly that we’re not?
I hope my blog handles self-promotion least of all topics. I really want it to be a place for gathering information that is relevant to my own sensibility. When you land there you should pretty quickly be able to figure out who I am and what is important to me. It is also very important to me that I am able to promote others who are “doing it right.” Once in awhile I will do what I call a “gushy post” and I will rave and fawn over some new writer I have discovered.
I am planning a series of posts where I will interview several male writers that I admire, who are writing about sex in ways that are worth taking notice.When I wrote my novel I was addressing the fact that a few of the writers I respected hardly handled sex at all in their work, but were supposed to be addressing the human condition. I never expected this meant all male writers, because of course, there wasJunot Diaz and Marco Vassi, but Marco Vassi was mostly classified as a porn writer!
I was addressing a very specific assumption I had, that I am still trying to work though, that literary fiction can’t or shouldn’t handle explicit sex because it is too…well…explicit, tasteless or ew, you know, like too gross or something… Fuck! Forget the fact that it is also something that is universal, vital and either traumatic or pleasurable as an activity. Why real depictions of it are still largely stuck into a separate genre is something I continue to look at and discuss.
I also want people to learn something as well. When I say I wrote a book that was erotic many people bring up the latest blockbuster that deals with BDSM. If a careful reader comes to my site, they will find recommendations to other books they might also find interesting and find out why I am writing the way I do.
The last thing I want to do is trivialize sex further; instead I want to celebrate and examine it and point people towards other artists who do the same. If I can accomplish that with my website, blog, facebook and twitter ramblings, I will have done something important.
Something unrelated to the book that you will find on my website , is about a place I was in as a teenager called Straight, Inc. It was a radical institution which called itself a drug treatment program that worked with teenagers through the 70’s until the early 90s. This is a part of who I am that until pretty recently I kept quiet about and mostly tried to ignore. As I get older and try to work through some of what it means for me to have been in that place, it becomes more important to both integrate it into my discussions about who I am and try to draw attention to it. There are a good number of people out there who were in places like this and I think it is important that they don’t feel alone. I have several links up on my website and have posted a few essays about the experience and will continue to do so from time to time.
You list Atlas Shrugged as an inspiration.I really loved that novel when I read it – more for the characters and less for some of the extreme Objectivism. Anthem was a super-important book for me when I first read it. Do you think poor Ayn is getting a bad rap, lately?
I have been told that shit tons of people like Ayn for the reasons I do, but I haven’t met any of them until you! Generally Atlas Shrugged is only cited when discussions of a political nature come up. The pieces about Atlas that resonated for me, and were exactly why I threw the references into the book were first the notion that your mind, your thoughts, and your reason are valuable. In the context of my book, it was like, hey, if you like erotica, or science fiction more than literary fiction, don’t feel bad about that. Don’t let people who purport to know, as those party goers did in Atlas, tell you that you are wrong. Do your thing and be proud of it, and choose wisely, being true to your own vision of the world. Also, as a writer, don’t write what you think other people want, or what might sell, or any of that, write what really turns your crank, rocks your clock, and floats your particular boat.
The second thing I appreciated was that she addressed the power that guilt has over us all. We get to look at how it works as a motivator in relationships of all kinds. One of the writers I admire, Jonathan Franzen, talked about this in a speech he gave when he came to Seattle. He is the first writer I ever heard address this. Guilt is an especially big deal for mothers as we are often expected to give up our hopes and dreams until our kids are grown.One day it occurred to me that that was unreasonable, and that much of the guilt I had about doing what I wanted was left over from judging my own mother who also didn’t do the June Cleaver thing.
As I began pulling away from the day to day routine that involved me being available for husband and kids 24/7, I had to deal with quite a bit of guilt, and still do for choosing to spend my time writing, editing and attending events for all of it. But I also believe that my happiness and my example to my girls matters in the long run. Do I want them to think that they are doomed to a life of constant sacrifice and no personal fulfillment if they decide to go the domestic route? That sort of insight took a while though. I think we are still taught to give up quite a bit for the sake of our families and it is not always easy to imagine another way to be until we have done it for a while.
Here is something that nobody mentions… Did Dagny not have the most incredible men lusting after her? And they weren’t lusting after her because she had a rack that could drop jaws, but instead it was all about what was inside her, and what she was capable of. So there was, like Twilight,which I read at the same time I read Atlas Shrugged,this implication for some incredible group sex.
Don’t give me that look. It was there the whole time. I should write it so you’ll see…
Sex and Death has some heavy topics mixed in with self-discovery and erotica. Your protagonist starts off writing gay pornography because she’s more interested in writing books that are “fun escapist reads” VS “high literature.” She also explores the nature of women’s roles in relationships and how they’re perceived by society. As a whole, do you think we’re ever going to get over a lot of the puritanical hang-ups that color our views and pre-conceived notions about what it means to interact intimately with others and what our roles are supposed to be in that dance?
First I want to say that I am no expert on anything, all I can speak to is what I have observed in my own life and what I have been learning lately.
I had thought we were still, at least where I lived, pretty hung up, but since I wrote the book these fascinating people, largely men, have been handing me all sorts of information. I think now I need to distinguish between mainstream media (the literary fiction I was reading was mainstream and popular) and what the men’s movements and what some would call counter-culture are doing. Until I found Marco Vassi, I was pretty sure men were not able to function mentally and be sexual beings. True story.I know,I am special and incredibly precious aren’t I? What Vassi wrote was revelatory and confirmed something that I had hoped–that men were more like me than different– and there was a way to find a real connection with these beings who for many reasons I admired.
I am not sure if anything different is possible in any context where we are slave to a mass consciousness, certainly not where people are still labeled, still not able to be themselves without judgment. This again goes to my discussion of what good is and what bothers me about labels in general. Is a man who can have sex with both women and men and find connection there any less of a man than one who only sleeps with women? According to the jokes I heard on TV and the way I have heard men talked about all my life, there would be something wrong with him.
I also feel like the nuances that make all of life so exciting is what television, and the mass media are so awful at dealing with. Because we simplify things to the point of inanity, it is very easy to assume, especially at an unconscious level, that there is something wrong with you if you want something different than what mainstream media presents. We wax off all of our body hair, get plastic surgery, and airbrush everything, so that both men and women now are faced with images on magazine covers and in movies that set up an expectation that we have to then reconcile both about who we are and about what we are supposed to want. What if the thing that really gets you going is the image of some big hairy lumberjack…who may be sporting a roll around his middle but has incredibly powerful shoulders? Can a woman just be attracted to man because of what he represents as a being without having to also fantasize about him having rock hard abs and a bank account to rival Donald Trump?
I have been hearing women talk about these issues relating to what they think society expects of us, but when I flipped it around and looked at it from the male perspective, something clicked into place for me. If men can’t even be real, then what have we done to ourselves as a culture?It seems to me that the more we commercialize sex, and our own bodies, and the more we simplify our desires, the more we lose something important about our humanity.
Geez, I can go on…
One thing that bothered me at a deep level was when I played back a Charlie Brown specialon DVR for my girls. I had recorded it off the ABC Family channel. The ads that were flashing during the commercials were for this show that featured a bunch of adolescent girls, made up to look like Playmates. They had perfect hair, and full coat of makeup including shiny lipstick and high heels. The show looked like nothing more than a soap opera to me, not something that should be advertised when small children could see it.
I was horrified and watched myself with no small amount of humor,ban any more ABC Family shows. So, that was interesting, here I am this person who talks about sex with anyone who will listen, who writes what most would consider pretty explicit stuff, who talks as honestly and openly about sex as I can with my daughters, but then when it comes to my girls watching this dreck, I turn into my grandmother.
And I think actually that this reconciles perfectly. I want my girls to grow up with a healthy image about what they are supposed to look like, what their friends are supposed to look like and how they should behave and get by in the world. This should apply for them, and for the men and women they choose to share their lives with.
Look at Charlie Brown. Here boys and girls are unique, and each has his own characteristics and something about them that makes them special, and at least as I watch it, the implication is that they will grow up in the world and find all sorts of interesting things to do. With the show I saw ads for, the focus was only on relationships, how to snare a boy, and how to make him the focus of your life.
So my sense is that if we look to anything mainstream as a way to understand ourselves we will be making a huge mistake. This is why books are so valuable, especially the weird ones. Even books that people look down on are more nuanced than anything on television or in the movies.
Dancing is a recurring thing in the book. It’s a recurring thing with me at weddings – I’m already making plans to start a conga line to Footloose at Tracey Hansen’s wedding. Were you a dancer? Should we maybe all be more dancer and less whatever the hell else we’re currently doing?
Only if that is your thing. I have a friend who sits meditation. He says he gets his energy from meditation, and he thinks, and I would agree, that I get mine from dance. I think we all should be doing what works for us.
I would definitely encourage people who are afraid of dancing to give it a try though. Conga lines have never been my thing but something like that would be a great introduction for the newbie. Take lots of pictures!
I took lessons pretty intensely for about a year and went out at least four times a week for quite a while. I almost had a formal partner for Tango and had plans to go to Argentina and study there before I met my husband. I am not an especially graceful dancer and despite the fact that I love the Argentine Tango, and have lots of fun with Salsa, I am a horrible follow. I still do it but I am awful at it.
The deal is to try and fail and try again and enjoy yourself. That is what dance is all about for me. Like sex, like running, like any other physical activity, when the whole body is involved, it can take you to a different place and in doing that can be quite expansive.
Is anyone in movies or TV doing anything erotic right or is it just the same old Cinemax tropes over and over?
I feel like all I see are tropes but I am also having my eyes opened to the fact that I haven’t been looking in the right places. I think I touched on this in some of my previous answers too.
What I am finding is that when I am open to learning about something, the examples sort of fall in my lap. Check back with me, I am sure that I will have something for you soon. For now, what I like is still found in books and a few offbeat places. Did you see the videos from my launch? Maureen O’Donnell does this tribal belly dance that is incredible to watch, especially live. This was not only sexy, but unique and interesting. I have never seen anything like it.
Music or not? If yes, what do you listen to when you write? (You get tons of extra points if it involves Hall & Oates).
I have listened to Hall &Oates. “Maneater” especially helps to tap into a certain vamp vibe–this thing I wanted so desperately to be when I was younger.
Addressing that need is something that I deal with in my work. I will be listening to more of the stuff that was popular in the 80s as I am working on a book that takes place during that time. There is nothing like Bonnie Tyler to call up a certain type of romanticy angst. Did you know Hall & Oates did a song with my name in it?
Music is very important to me, but it is hard to explain what I do with it. Very strong music like Marilyn Manson and Metallica help to tap into a state of outrage or frustration. Also Enigma works well on the flip side. Often the poppier the better, when I first started Sex and Death in the American Novel I was listening to Lady GaGa. The working title of the book was Bad Romance until only a couple months before it was published.
As I write the first draft, I listen to music, usually pretty loud, and then keep that music around to listen to later on. How I use music tends to be a lot about accessing a specific feeling or if this makes sense, sort of holding the emotional energy so I can get back to it when I need it. When I am trying to really work I need quiet, often the monsters in my head are loud enough, but other times, like when I am revising, or copy editing, I may use something like Bach or Tangerine Dream.
Book Trailer Break!!!
When it’s just not happening–you know–the words, what do you do? How do you get away, re-focus, clear your head?
Physical activities serve to get me the fuck out of my head and back to what got me excited about what I was working on.
I am big on running or walking outside, or at the gym if I have to.
Dance is something I am doing more lately, but don’t get to go out to do it as much as I would like. The launch party was a notable example. I was high from that for at least a week.
What’s the balance for you between being a writer, being a wife, being a mom, having a life? Do you find yourself being a slightly different person when you’re engaged in different parts of your life–or are you always just Sarah? (Sometimes I’m LBJ–but my therapist tells me to run with it).
Yes, run with it J
Since I was pretty young I have been able to compartmentalize different parts of my life and myself. I am still me and my values are the same, but I handle different people in my life differently. Once in a while someone from one of my mommy groups wants to talk about writing or editing, and it feels a little like the world is tipping.
I find the balance difficult. When I do anything I like to do it fully and often it is hard to switch to something else. Often I feel like I am torn in different directions, like I’ll want to do two things in the same amount of time, like finish a book and read to my daughter before it is time to go to bed.
Mostly now I am doing the writer promoter thing and running kids around during the day. Here I want to say that this is something that would be much more difficult if I didn’t have the husband that I have. He is very centered on the family and so he handles a lot of domestic tasks and of course stays with the girls when I have to go to a conference, or when I write in the evenings. I am not sure how couples who both write do it. I am sure you can make anything work, but this balance is hard for sure.
Different parts of my day are for different things. Early mornings are sacred writing time, then the girls get up and I have to get them ready for school. For a couple hours while my youngest is in school I work, then I pick her up and we run errands, and I do the domesticated wife routine. At least three nights a week I get to work more or run to different events and activities. At bedtime I read to my youngest and then my oldest will get into bed with me and we will read side my side. I love that.
What’s next? Maybe not what book is next – more like what amazing goal is next? How will Sarah Martinez next make it rain?
I am working on my next book, but as a part of that research I am learning all this great stuff that I mentioned before about the men’s movement and male sexuality–not as the silly or brutish thing it is always portrayed as, but as something worth real attention from the female perspective. I have found four men without even trying who are doing amazing sex writing, or honestly talking about sexual issues and I will be doing a series of blog posts where I get to ask them questions about writing and sex. A couple of these guys are really radical so I expect this to be pretty exciting.
The thing with this is that I was very heavily focused on my own frustration and that of the women around me when I wrote Sex and Death. Most of the men I was in intimate relationships with that I could have potentially had real discussions with were too hung up on proving their “manhood” and couldn’t talk honestly, and also were just not very articulate.
Since I have started writing and talking to writers, there is a more open atmosphere and also being older has helped too I think, both in my level of ability to listen and in the people I have been talking to.
A good writer friend and I had a discussion about a year ago and this was the first time that it occurred to me–in a way that made me change my own line of thinking– that men were subjected to their own set of pressures. What he said sounded similar to what I hear some women say about what keeps them from being who they want to be. Satisfying this craving for knowledge and experiencing this connection that had nothing to do with having sex with this man, made me really happy. For once I felt like I had achieved understanding. Something real had happened.
Many times in my life I had felt like discussions with men were mostly a build up to sex or a build up to the eventual let down that would be not having sex or whatever.
Or the tension that comes with not talking about it. Now I am talking to people about things that are important to people. I hope to be able to share that with others who may be as ignorant as I was.
Vivianna Post is the family anomaly. Daughter of a Pulitzer Prize winner and an academic, she has never quite fit her parents’ expectations as a free-spirited erotica writer. When Vivianna encounters the award-winning author Jasper Caldwell at a nightclub, all she wants is to blame him for blowing off her brother at a writers’ conference the year before and possibly causing his suicide. But as the night—and then the weeks—wear on, Vivianna finds herself drawn to Jasper in ways she cannot understand. When their differences—literary and sexual—threaten to pull Vivianna and Jasper apart, Jasper rediscovers Alejandro, an old friend who just might have the power to complete them both in every way. Using quotes and references to classic erotic and literary icons, Sex and Death in the American Novel is on one level an unconventional romance and on another a discussion of the merits of erotic literature.
Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat…?
Billy Purgatory is a man plagued by questions – about his mother’s disappearance, his love-hate relationship with vampire fatale Anastasia, and why the Time Zombie keeps stealing his girlfriends. The search for answers frequently leads him into danger and the darker corners of the world, corners he would prefer not to see.
In his quest for answers, Billy begins using the Zombie’s powers for his own designs, hurtling into the past in a time-bending attempt to create an ideal present. No one can predict the outcome of such a plan – especially not Billy. This time, his adventures take him high above the African plains, through the sleek, marbled halls of a mysterious mansion brimming with sinister science, and across the U.S. on a heated road trip with none other than Anastasia at his side. Vampires, demons, and an evil cabal known simply as the Satanic Five are all hot on his trail.
Some answers don’t come easily…but that’s never stopped Billy Purgatory.
Fall is uponeth you! (unless you live in maybe New Zealand or Antarctica because I’m not really sure how science works and it might not be the same there because they’re upside down).
As many of you probably don’t know because how could you because I haven’t told anyone and it’s not like I ever Tweet or anything,
“Jesse James Freeman is an extraordinarily gifted writer and storyteller. You might think urban fantasy isn’t your thing-I might have before I read ‘Billy Purgatory.’ Freeman is smart, keenly observant, and has this uncommon combination of being sardonic and wistful at the same time. He humanizes his characters–even the villains–all in a commanding, masterful writing style that you wear like a warm sweater on a cool night or cactus prickles in your pants.
‘Billy Purgatory’ is a shocking, rollicking, wholly satisfying read. So get out there and get your copy and read it. You’ll feel as though you’ve gone on holiday with one of the sharpest young social philosophers of our day.”
I have been furiously putting the final touches on the sequel to Billy Purgatory: I am the Devil Bird (Book 1 in the series, if you’re into counting and the alphabet and that kinda nonsense).
Writing a sequel has been a long and grueling process and it has proved to be a lot of financial responsibility on my part. My accountant keeps assuring me that we can write the tequila costs off as research but he’s not sure sure about the massages. I really feel like my writing arms have to be limber for me to achieve maximum output. This should also justify the manicure expenses and the tanning bed. I’ve also been on a strict diet of Taco Bell and Zima:
I have had the love and support of the entire Booktrope family the whole way through this exhausting process.
“Are you done yet?” – Tracey Hansen, Write for the Fight
“Do you still write books?” – Tess Hardwick, Riversong
“It’s just… you’ve been drinking a lot of malt-liquor and I’m really not sure if running scenes using LEGOs and not just making an outline is the most useful way to brainstorm” - Steven Luna, Joe Vampire
“Are you snorting Carpet Fresh again?” – Marni Mann, Scars from a Memoir
They have cleared me to release the tantalizing (which is like a bedazzled-Tarantula if you really think about it) official description for Billy Purgatory and the Curse of the Satanic Five. Please sit down and brace yourself before reading any further. I don’t have any money and can’t be responsible if you fall down or didn’t take your Flintstones Blood-Pressure Gummisaurs yet today: