Dark Side Tour – Pobi, Pyper and Cutter in Ottawa

To anyone, three men sitting around a restaurant discussing the books in hand may not be so striking. To know they are preparing for readings and selecting passages may pique the interest of a student of horror. What they are choosing are bits that they know are either striking to their readers, or portions that they really feel embody the highlights of that particular work or as a hologram of their craft as a whole.

~DSC_6017smNone of them wear ‘scary’ like a uniform. Horror is in books and film and in their imaginations. It’s not sitting down for a meal or spending the day on the lake with the kids, let alone getting to meet and talk with the public. So, seeing them all with their books going over the evenings reading selections and chatting about their work and the tour remains as “business casual” as anyone would suspect. They were fresh off the Dark Side Tour launch the night before in Toronto and this, the second date on the tour in Ottawa, was the gateway to Montreal and Quebec City.

‘Paperback Writer’ by The Beatles drifted over the restaurant sound system and conversation veered in and out of the craft of writing, their current work, beginnings, forensic pathology, the current tour and their tremendous support they receive from the sponsors. Such regular conversation to start, you barely notice the quick dips from mundane to taboo without the bat of an eyelash.

Andrew Pyper: “We are externalizing a very internal process. Like, every question is about this thing I do inside of my head, alone, at four o’clock in the morning… it’s like explaining skateboarding. Try explaining skateboarding to somebody.”

Without focusing on beginnings such as school and earliest memories of writing, I asked how their publishing journey was. Had they had a long arc with small presses or short story sales, or hit large publishers right off the bat.

AP: I was very lucky. I had a book that came out of a small press, The Porcupines Quill. Then I went away and wrote a novel. I had an agent based on essentially that she thought I was going to write a novel. So she took it out and it was picked up in Canada first with Harper Collins, then in the US, UK and elsewhere. There was a movement from small press to big but without the process of rejection or multiple novels having to be written before you take that next step.”

Robert Pobi: I had a longer, weirder experience. I sold my first novel when I was 23. I was in Mexico waiting for the galleys to be sent to me, and the publisher was bought out twelve days before the publisher went into production. Presidio Press. Afterward, I went out a few query letters, didn’t have any luck. I mean I had been picked up to the first one I sent the book to and got a contract so I thought this was easy. I tried for six or seven months, sent out seven or eight letters and they all said, ‘thank you, but no thank you’. So I was just writing in a vacuum for the next twenty years. I didn’t show my work to anybody. When I came out of the box, five or six years ago now, Simon & Schuster were the first people to pick me up. I got picked up by Random House in the UK and things just went. I got lucky right off the bat, I guess, but after paying my dues in private for twenty years.”

Nick Cutter: It’s been a roller-coaster for me too. I wrote my first horror book under a different pseudonym. I think I was 25 or 26. And then I started writing literary stuff and tried to sell short stories to journals. If I were masochistic I could have filled a pillowcase with rejection slips. I cobbled some stores together and it feels like when the floodgates opened, they opened suddenly. Like boom. Then boom-boom-boom you got a bunch of acceptances. Maybe I had pre-loaded. Like just had to get better and better so then you just hit this nice slipstream. ‘Rust and Bone‘ came out, then ‘The Fighter‘, but no one wanted anything to do with me after ‘The Fighter‘, my second novel. So I was down again. Didn’t know what i was going to do, then ChiZine, who I’ve been friends with published my book ‘Sarah Court‘ and that sort of helped me get back on track toward writing ‘Cataract City‘ which is my over book under Craig Davidson, then ‘The Troop‘ and ‘The Deep‘. So yes, it’s been a roller coaster but I think a lot of writers follow that same course.”

Horror, as a genre, could be seen as paying rent to live in the basement of a building it used to own. A sad state on one hand. On another, the mother ship could be seen as buried under the new civilizations that are thriller, urban fantasy and dark literature. I asked their take on that idea and being fit into the horror genre.

RP: ‘Eye Of The Storm‘ I thought was a horror novel. ‘Harvest‘ I didn’t, but the next one coming out, ‘Mannheim Rex‘, that’s a horror novel. I just write fun stories and see where they go–I guess children having their feet sawed off qualifies as horror–I didn’t approach Harvest as horror. I would have worked on the heat a little more, the atmosphere in the city a little bit more. Probably dealt my main character a couple more blows emotionally. I would have handled it a little bit differently. I had sold ‘Bloodman‘ to Random House UK which I had written as a horror book and they said it was a great thriller and said ‘we’ll take it if you sell us a second police novel’. So they saw it as a strict police book. In France I’m on the shelf with literature. French translations of Poe; then me. In the UK it’s in the take-away at Sainsbury’s next to the fried chicken.

AP: I wouldn’t say I’m uncomfortable with the term horror to describe my work, because it is. Within the genre, I think something like psychological horror or supernatural thriller would probably in my case be simply more accurate. I don’t care whether it’s more savory, just that it’s more accurate. It’s at the end of the spectrum where it kind of crosses over into suspense or literary, or even to an extent crime. These nuances are interesting to think about as the more nuanced it gets the more helpful it gets at marketing books. Whether it is the UK or here. To market it as horror? I’m fine with that. That’s just a decision of the rack, but as a matter of aesthetics, I would probably be more comfortable with supernatural thriller.

NC: I grew up in the 80s and 90s reading books that were clearly marked horror on the spine. So, if I could fall in with that lineage I’m fine with that. I think things have splintered since that time and it gets broken down into elements of what a book could be slotted as. It’s more of a decision of the publishers and what they see things as, but for me personally, if I have horror stamped on the spine of my books that’s fine.

Huge thanks to Amy Jacobsen and Loretta Eldridge from Simon & Schuster, who did an excellent job of managing the tour. Alongside sponsors from Beaus Brewing, and Elle Canada, they worked with hosts ChiSeries, Maxwell’s and Perfect Books to make for one very cool evening. Seeing everyone from ChiZine, Can-Con, Maple Books, Geek Inked, Postscripts to Darkness and Lackington’s was a veritable who’s who of dark literature here, and that’s just who I had a chance to visit with.
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The readings were intense. Stark. The selections had lines that toyed along the edge of good taste and taboo, as those familiar with these books could guess. Pobi had even those that had read his work squirming and the crowd reactions to all were priceless. You can hear and watch over at Geek Inked!

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The question and answer segment was new to Ottawa ChiSeries but flowed like a mini panel on the mind of a horror writer. Gone were industry questions on how to get an agent and what writing is like. The crowd wanted blood or at least meatier input. How their minds work. How research influences them and how they can lay their morbid thoughts to rest and have headspace to share among the living and loved ones. One of the questions that arose was how do they reign it in. Have editors ever stopped them from including passages that may be too scary, too gory, or too insane?

RP: Going too far. It’s something I worried about when doing this full time and my standard response is ‘Do you know Ed Gein?’ what ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is based on? When they arrested him, he was wearing under his clothes a belt made out of human nipples and had a vagina that wasn’t his in his pants. What can I do that’s gonna top that? Edmond Kemper is another one… you look at the news what ISIS is doing, there is so much badness in the world…truth is stranger than fiction.

NC: In ‘Danse Macabre‘, Stephen King talked about the three levels of fear. He said, first I’ll try to terrify you, and if that won’t work then I’ll try and horrify you and if I can’t do that, try to gross you out. Sometimes I skip terrify and horrify and go straight for the gross out. Andrew works on a different register where he terrifies… but Rob and I have to deal with the question of do you turn it up to the next level or do you not? I have given up on trying to write by trying to assay peoples tastes. It’s a hard thing because what doesn’t even get close to ‘your’ terror register as a horror fan is way over ‘their’ taste level. You can get frozen inertia by staying where your supposed readers tolerance is and then you don’t do anything. You have to have fun with this if it’s what you want to do, so you have to be able to do whatever you want.”

The question of research and how it influences their writing ranged from profiling crime to spirituality. This is one area where I think many authors tend to understate the amount of research that goes into fiction. That or it is largely unnoticed as Pobi pointed out, since it may take a stack of books to influence or validate a line or two in a chapter.

AP: My research tends toward the specific or going places like Detroit in the case of ‘The Damned‘. Or more mythological research. There is a typically a classic text that forms the basis for the recent books. There is the ghost of Dante’s ‘Inferno‘ in ‘The Damned‘ or Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost‘ in ‘The Demonologist‘, so there is a kind of fact based research, but for me it’s understanding the pre-existing myth and what I’m going to do with it.”
Hopefully we will see another round of the Dark Side Tour.

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So, what will we see on the shelves next?

Andrew Pyper: Probably the most ambitious project I’ve ever undertaken as it requires quite a lot of research. It has historical aspects to it and conceptually it’s the most ambitious book too. I’ve never been as excited by a book and as scared as I am of blowing it with this book.

Robert Pobi: My next book is called ‘Deselected’. It’s about evolutionary mechanics and the beliefs in place in the religious right in the States and when scientific threats start coming down on humanity beliefs begin crumbling in domino effect. It’s about this narcissistic navel gazing and us being the centre of the universe.

Nick Cutter: My next book with ChiZine is called ‘The Acolyte’. It’s about this society also ruled by a religious right and the acolytes job is to stamp out any faiths that are not in line with the traditional state. It follows a couple of these acolytes and what is going on when they begin to fight against this system that is in place.

Dreadful Tales Book Club – February 2015 Edition

Nightmare GirlFrom Meli at The Mortuary:

Jonathan Janz is a common favorite at the Mortuary and this month we are reading his new one The Nightmare Girl from Samhain Horror. We’ve got just one more solid month of winter, but this title will keep us occupied while we’re cozied up in our houses counting down to spring!

Here’s the synopsis from Samhain:

Playing with fire has never been more dangerous.

When family man Joe Crawford confronts a young mother abusing her toddler, he has no idea of the chain reaction he’s setting in motion. How could he suspect the young mother is part of an ancient fire cult, a sinister group of killers that will destroy anyone who threatens one of its members? When the little boy is placed in a foster home, the fanatics begin their mission of terror.

Soon the cult leaders will summon their deadliest hunters—and a ferocious supernatural evil—to make Joe pay for what he’s done. They want Joe’s blood and the blood of his family. And they want their child back.

Join ussssssssssss!

– C.

Dreadful Tales Book Club – November 2014 Edition

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November is upon us, and how better to while away the buffer month between Halloween and Christmas insanity than with a good old yarn? You with me? Let’s distract ourselves with words while we silently dread the snow covered, stress raising, rage inducing month of December. Because Christmas is… just… around… oh god… kill me… please…

WHOA! Okay. Let’s do this properly, folks.

I’m especially excited about this month’s book for several reasons, the most important being that I’m a huge fan of Kevin Lucia’s work. Now, I know a fair amount of you might not know his stories, but you should. You really should. Based on his scholarly achievements (he is currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree, and teaches High School English… *shudder*), his work as a submissions reader for Cemetery Dance, and his Podcast, Horror 101, you can rest assured that this is a man who knows his craft.

Lucia’s released all manner of short stories, some novella length work, poetry, and a bunch more. My first introduction to his work was Hiram Grange & The Chosen One which had so much incredible imagery and action in it that I devoured it in one go and became an instant fan.

With Devourer of Souls, a twofer of novellas, folk are saying that Lucia would be the bastard son of Lovecraft and King, if ever they spent a night together under the stars. I don’t disagree at all. Take a look at the synopsis:

Welcome to Clifton Heights, an average Adirondack town. It’s nice enough, really. Except after dark. Or on cold winter days when you’re all alone…

Sophan

An ancient game of chance and Fate. One boy’s smoldering hate, another boy’s need to make things right, and a father’s ghosts of Vietnam past. These are the key players in this latest tale of revenge and reparation performed on the stage of the strange Adirondack town of Clifton Heights, NY.

The Man in Yellow
 
Tahawus is a small, isolated Adirondack town just north of Clifton Heights. A quiet place filled with simple people of an ardent faith, nothing much ever happens there…until the man in yellow comes calling. He knows your worst nightmares, and he can offer your fondest wish. All you need is faith…and a mouth from which to scream.

That said, please join us as we blast into the cold month ahead, pick up a copy of Devourer of Souls, and join us at The Mortuary to discuss this cosmic tale of horror.

– C

Dreadful Tales Book Club – October 2014 Edition

October Banner

ROCKtober is upon us, kiddies, and it’s time to get serious about our reading. Personally, when I think about the books I want to read in this, the best month of the year, I tend to cycle back to writers I’m familiar with – people who have scared or affected me in one way or another.

But this month is also a bit weird. The book that was chosen for the club this time around isn’t scheduled to drop until around October 14th (a day before this writer’s birthday… *cough cough* buy me all of the things…)

So the Midwest Monster (Meli) came up with a brilliant plan. Let’s read a novella in the first half of the month, and run out the Halloween season with a novel I know a few of us have been waiting for.

That said, here’s what we have on deck for the October Book of the Month Club at Dreadful Tales:

By Insanity of ReasonBy Insanity of Reason is touted as an unforgettable story by two of the genre’s favorite authors – John R. Little, and Lisa Morton. This little novella clocks in at 107 printed pages, and 74 in its digital format, and was released by Bad Moon Books and Crossroad Press (Digital edition) this past september. It looks to be a great first course to this month’s club reads.

Here’s the synopsis:

By Insanity of Reason is the story of Crystal, a woman whose life has been shattered by a chain of mysterious murders. Her husband, Richard, struggles to help…or is he working against her as she tries to regain her sanity?Told in a unique style, with each scene moving further back in time, secrets and plans are unveiled that have led to Crystal’s unfortunate state, leading to the final shocking origins.

You can pick up a copy at Bad Moon Books, on Amazon.

Frenzy WolvesWhich brings us to the second portion of our monthly meal – The Frenzy Wolves by Gregory Lamberson. This is the long awaited final installment into the Frenzy Cycle Series, and the follow-up to The Frenzy War – a book that Meli called a “…noir upgrade to the classic werewolf tale” and one of a few stories that sees this reader being slaughtered in a harrowing and gruesome way. Ask Desmond Reddick over at Dread Media about his cameo, too. Good times.

Here’s the synopsis:

With the aid of his elite squad of super cops, NYPC captain Tony Mace has defeated the werewolf slayers known as the Brotherhood of Torquemada. But now a new enemy has risen to persecute the peaceful Wolves, and Tony’s loyalty to Gabriel Domini, leader of the pack, places him at odds with his department.

Gabriel’s brother Raphael objects to Gabriel’s efforts to integrate the Wolves into human society, and seeks to start a war against mankind. When Rodrigo Gomez, the Full Moon Killer, escapes from prison, his quest for vengeance draws Tony into a battle for supremacy among the Wolves which could lead to a far greater war for both species.

- from Amazon.com

As I said above, this book drops in October 14th, and will be available from Medallion Press, and on Amazon.

So please join us as we usher in the Halloween season with TWO stories by masters in their field. And don’t forget to join us at The Mortuary to discuss these two stories!

– C

Dreadful Tales Book Club – September 2014 Edition

BotM Sept 2014

I’m not even going to play with you this month – books about Exorcisms and any religious horror happenings scare the all of the fluids out of me. I love them, but they don’t love me. They hate me. They keep me up at night and whisper sickly sweet nothings in my ear… about my eventual evisceration…

Enter Jonathan Janz – one of the new breed of authors who is making waves in the genre today, and the man who brings old-school scares with a splatterpunk flair. (Am I rhyming too much here?)

With Exorcist Road, Janz ushers in a new era of thrills and violence, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the old school paperback days. I would gladly stand this novella alongside lurid horror gems like Ketchum’s Off Season for its shock factor; the unbridled aggression of Laymon’s One Rainy Night; and the sexually charged nastiness of Tessier’s Rapture.

Here’s the synopsis:

Possessed by a demon…or by the urge to kill?

Chicago is gripped by terror. “The Sweet Sixteen Killer” is brutally murdering sixteen-year-old girls, and the authorities are baffled.

A seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy has attacked his entire family and had to be chained to his bed. His uncle, police officer Danny Hartman, is convinced his nephew is possessed by a demon. Danny has sent his partner, Jack, to fetch the only priest in Chicago who has ever performed an exorcism.

But Jack has other plans tonight. He believes the boy isn’t possessed by a demon, but instead by an insatiable homicidal urge. Jack believes the boy is the Sweet Sixteen Killer. And he aims to end the reign of terror before another girl dies.

You can pick up a copy at Samhain, on Amazon, and discuss it here and at The Mortuary.

– C

Dreadful Tales Book Club – August 2014 Edition

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After checking out some of Rhoads’ work in Feb 2012’s WiHM, we decided to give her another look-see. The book of the month for August is As Above, So Below by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas.

When the succubus Lorelei sees the angel Azaziel from across the bar, she knows he’s been cast out of Heaven, but is not yet Fallen. In the service of Hell, she resolves to do whatever it takes to bring the angel down. When she trails him back to his lair in the warehouses outside of downtown Los Angeles, they both are seduced by each other.

Together on the streets of L.A., they encounter Ashleigh Johnson, one of Azaziel’s mortal charges, dying of hepatitis in the street, and the angel rescues her soul from two harpies poised to devour it and causes Lorelei to be possessed by Ashleigh’s soul. Other angels don’t foresee any positive outcomes to any of this. In their eyes, their brother has endangered a mortal soul and compromised his own standing in Heaven.

When they intrude, Lorelei flees — taking Ashleigh Johnson along for the ride. In the process, Lorelei discovers that she has developed a soul of her own, a soul which is most certainly damned. Before long, her sister Floria tracks down a defrocked priest willing to exorcise Ashleigh’s mortal soul from Lorelei’s infernal flesh, and the intimate little ritual swells into a virtual Who’s Who of Hell’s presence in L.A.!

You can pick up a copy at Amazon, and discuss it here and at The Mortuary.

– C

Dreadful Tales Book Club – July 2014 Edition

NOS4A2The book of the month for July is Carnies by Perth based Australian author Martin Livings. First published in 2006 it is now published again in ebook and print from Cohesion Press and available from Amazon.

“The small town of Tillbrook has a secret. One that has been kept for over a hundred years.
Journalist David Hampden needs a good story to resurrect his flagging career.
His damaged brother, Paul, just needs to find some meaning for his life.
When David is alerted to a century-old carnival, the idea of a feature story is too good to pass up, so he drags Paul along to Tillbrook to act as his photographer.
What they find is darker than they could ever imagine.
Paul becomes part of the exotic world of the Dervish Carnival, est. 1899, and David must risk everything to save his brother.
Even though Paul might not want to be saved.
Come on in, and enjoy the show.
No photos allowed.”

Discuss it here and at The Mortuary

– Dark Mark