This is the second of two interviews recommended to me by Ed Kurtz of Abattoir Press/Redrum Horror.
Funny enough, both Shane McKenzie and I have been pulled in funny directions in the intervening weeks, and we’ve been playing a bit of email tag ever since! But I think he has more and better reasons to be busy than I: an enormous jump into publishing in 2012, and a 13 month old, of whom he sounds very proud.
So without further ado, on with the show, this is it!
PF: By the time this post goes live, Bleed on Me will have hit shelves. You say that you had a blast writing it. But this isn’t your first novella, either. Tell me a little about the process of writing this particular book, and how it may have differed from writing All You Can Eat, for example.
SM: For Bleed on Me, I just let my imagination go nuts. The original idea was a man calling in a noise complaint because his downstairs neighbors were blasting their music. I imagined him going down there only to find a room full of corpses, and then eventually, those corpses would wake up. Where it went from there was just me having fun. I was pretty much laughing the entire time I wrote it.
Now, where does that process differ from other books? That’s kind of hard to say. I’d like to say my process is the same, but I guess it all depends on that day. I handled All You Can Eat much the same as I did Bleed on Me, was having a blast the whole way through, laughing and shaking my head as I described certain things. But I have a collection of novellas coming out soon, and I’m not allowed to say from where yet, that was different for me. It was hard to write in the sense that it took a lot out of me emotionally. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I came up with the idea, and the idea made me laugh, but once I started writing it, it just got personal. Not really sure why. Weird.
PF: 2012 is a huge year for you – Infinity House, Bleed on Me, All You Can Eat, plus two short stories – and by the look of it, you managed to sell to four different presses. How do you keep on top of all the logistics of such a hectic year?
SM: My whole game plan right now is to get readers. I’m new, and I know people may be hesitant to give a new guy a chance. I understand that because I’m the same way as a reader. So I’m writing my ass off and selling to as many publishers that will take me. I want my name to be all over the place so it gives me the best chance to get my work in front of potential readers. I figure every press has its own set of fans, so maybe I can inherit a few of them. By the end of the year, there will be more presses added to that list. And hopefully, I’ll continue to add more. But 2012 has been pretty damn nuts. I also the editor for Sinister Grin Press, and it’s been an exciting year, with a lot of learning. The stress of starting a new press and getting my writing career going has almost eaten me alive at times, but I’m loving this. I’m excited for the future of both.
|http://sinistergrinpress.com/ – check it out!|
PF: What pitch strategy have you found works for you? Conventions, networking, standard queries to publishing houses who produce work similar to what you write?
SM: I think it’s kind of a combination of everything. The first book I ever pitched was All You Can Eat. It was at World Horror Austin and I was terrified. I pitched it to three different publishers, and two of them wanted it. It was really weird to say no to anybody because I hadn’t published anything at that point. But after I got my deal with Deadite, it kind of snowballed from there. It seemed that publishers were taking me more seriously. So I would send a query, sort of introduce myself, and ask if I could send them something. The responses have been surprisingly positive. I’ve also met a lot of great people at conventions and once you’ve become friends with an editor, it’s a lot easier to get their attention when submitting.
PF: Your blurb is posted on the website for Abattoir Press, and even in that one paragraph, I get the sense that the imagery in Bleed on Me is thoroughly nightmarish. What inspires that kind of imagery?
SM: My fucked up head does. I don’t really know how else to explain it. Strange things pop in there when I’m writing, and I just go with it. I’ve read a lot of Clive Barker, and his imagery certainly inspired me. It taught me to embrace the crazy shit swirling around in my head. I’ve watched nothing but horror movies as a child, and I suppose that might’ve had some effect. Also, I lick a toad before every writing session.
PF: Speaking of inspirations – I asked this of a fellow Abattoir Press writer as well, but I just have to know: What gets you writing horror? Films, books, news, personal experience?
SM: I just love horror. Always have. What disgusts other people makes me laugh. I don’t think I’m a sick person, in fact I’m pretty gentle and loving. But something about horror just tickles my fancy. I’ve always loved monsters and gross stuff. I collected Garbage Pail Kids, watched every horror movie Blockbuster had to offer. When I got older, I discovered the more hardcore horror movies, which changed everything for me. I loved this shit even more than the mainstream stuff, which I really loved. Stuff like Zombie, Cannibal Holocaust, Nekromatik, and all the Troma stuff. I ate that shit up, still do. It wasn’t until later that I discovered horror fiction. I was one of those people that hated to read, would rather watch a movie. But once I got into reading horror, I was hooked. Guys like Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Bentley Little, and Wrath James White. The most hardcore movie don’t have shit on what these guys were writing. I knew right away I had to get in on this. I never thought it would actually happen, so all of this is a trip.
PF: There are some pretty gruesome themes in your books including – well, pretty much every one of the Cardinal Sins. Has anyone ever tried to censor you for one reason or another, be it because of imagery or language? How did you tackle their arguments?
SM: No publisher has yet to try and censor me. But, fellow authors who I’ve asked to read over my manuscript have pointed out when I’m being ultra disgusting or violent when the story itself doesn’t call for it. And I don’t want to do that. I think you can be nasty as hell, as nasty as you want to be, as long as it fits with the story you’re telling. But if you just add something fucked up just because, there’s no real point. It even takes away from everything else that does fit in the story, so I’m happy when it’s pointed out to me so I can get rid of it. There’s a particular scene in Infinity House that Nate Southard pointed out to me, and when I changed it, it changed the entire ending. And it’s way better because of it.
PF: In the bio on your blog, you say that you write fiction that cannot ever be read by your mother, wife or daughter. Silly question, then: why not?
SM: Because I want them to love me. My wife can take certain things, but not everything. She read All You Can Eat, and enjoyed it…for the most part. It was her fear of flies that helped inspire Infinity House, so she won’t read that. But my mother? No. She’s far too adorable for such despicable things. And my daughter is 13 months old, and when I imagine her finding my book one day and cracking it open, it freaks me out. Daddy’s books will be locked up.
PF: You say you want to make an impact on the genre. Aside from “splat”, what kind of an impact do you want to have on readers and writers of the future?
SM: Any impact I can. I just want readers to have fun when reading my stuff. I’m not smart enough to be deep about anything, so I write stuff that readers can enjoy, like a rollercoaster ride I guess. There’s no deeper meaning. I have so much fun writing horror, I just want the reader to have the same amount of fun reading it. I’ve had a few readers tell me I made them feel sick while reading my stuff, and for me, that’s a win. They felt something. I’ll take it.
PF: When writing hard-core horror, which element do you think is the most important? Suspense, imagery, or a comment on the human condition?
SM: I guess it’s a combination of all of that. As a reader, I really get a kick out of potent imagery, but it’s useless if there’s no story being told. Now, remember when I said I’m not smart enough to be deep about anything? I don’t go into any story thinking I’m going to comment on anything. But I think if you tell a story about a person, and you make that person real, it’ll always turn out to be a comment on the human condition, along with other unintentional things. A lot of my writing deals with shy, nerdy guys, with weight or acne problems or low self-esteem. That’s just because I know all about that. Those are the characters I create, but I didn’t create them because I wanted to comment on anything. Of course, that’s just me. So, to answer your question, hardcore horror needs a good story just like anything else, but in my opinion, it’s the imagery that makes it sizzle.
PF: You post some excellent reviews on your blog, but which one has really made you gush?
SM: Man, that’s hard to say. I’m a fan of every one of those guys, and I was blown away by their blurbs. I think the one that blew me away the most was Edward Lee’s, only because when I ask for a blurb, I expect a sentence, maybe two. I’d say that’s pretty standard. But he gave me a paragraph! I read it about a million times. But I’m extremely grateful to every author who has cared enough to give me a blurb. I look up to every one of them