Wednesday, May 19, 2010
MTM: For you dark fiction and horror fans out there, allow me to introduce you to R. Van Saint and A.R. Braun, co-authors of the upcoming anthology, Tales From The Abyss. This collection will be available exclusively through R. Van Saint’s website, www.zerotorockstar.com for readers who sign up for the Zero to Rockstar Media newsletter. To lift a line from RVS’s description, Tales From The Abyss consists of “weird-ass and scary stories for weird-ass and scary people.”
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I appreciate both of you taking the time to conduct this interview. Let’s get started.
What would you like for readers to know about you and your work before they delve into it?
ARB: I can't speak for Ro, but with my work, I try to find answers to why people act the way they do, when they act strange. It makes me feel better when there's a reason, like the people who tell themselves, "That person must've had a rough day." It just makes me feel better about people. I also tend to be very brutal, but that's not because I'm an evil person. Life is brutal, so it makes the work realistic.
RVS: I like to challenge the rules and experiment with format. The subject matter to my stories is usually dark, weird and sometimes absurd. I've dabbled in film and animation so I tend to set up my scenes and dialogue from a cinematic standpoint. I think that helps readers envision the story as they're reading it. I like to write stories around a character typically. I spend a lot of time picking a character's head before I even start a story.
MTM: I think we can all agree that the human mind can be a dark and scary place. What do you think it is about horror and dark fiction that fascinates us?
RVS: The fact that it makes us acknowledge the unspeakable aspects of the human condition. It makes us confront the things that make us uncomfortable. As for the unknown and unexplainable, it's just exciting to explore the what ifs that the genre has to offer.
ARB: It's fun and it's cathartic. We're just ambulance chasers, aren't we? Ha-ha. I saw a study one time on TV saying that we need the feel-good, fake scare to face our fears in real life. I like to think there's a purpose to it, but sometimes it is just because it's fun.
MTM: What are your thoughts on recent books and films within the genre?
ARB: I don't think there's a lot of great ones. It's the same way with music. I'm picky. I don't like a lot of bands. I prefer 70's authors because they were scarier, but that's all a matter of opinion. I think Rosemary's Baby is the scariest—Ira Levin's amazing—but there are some high-quality, new works out there: Scott Smith's The Ruins; Gary A. Braunbeck's Coffin County; Jeff Long's The Descent; The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King and others. With films, I think they've lost the scare factor present in so many movies made in the 60's, 70's and early 80's and have replaced it with CGI. We get about one great movie a year: Prey, The Ruins, The Descent and The Ring are some that I've liked recently.
RVS: A lot of it is derivative but once in a while you come across something different. Derivative is ok if you're in the mood for a blockbuster summer hit mindless entertainment kind of thing. I'm not a big fan of the new remakes that are coming out. If it was great the first time around, don't futz with it. Some of the recent movies I've seen that I actually enjoyed - Let The Right One In & Triangle. Three...Extremes (came out around 2005 I think) was pretty damn original. Dead Snow was fun to watch. As for books - I've enjoyed The Strain by Del Toro and Hogan. Neil Gaiman's work is mind-blowing. I also dig Sarah Langan and Joe Hill's work. I think the sub-par horror films rely too much on gore and violence and not enough on the build-up of suspense. I'm actually doing the opposite - I'm getting into more of the older films (pre-1960s). The last one I watched was The Virgin Spring by Bergman. Wes Craven even said The Last House on the Left is basically a reworking of that film.
MTM: I enjoyed The Ring as well. My wife is from Japan and talked me into watching the original Japanese version before the U.S. remake came out. We watched it on a bootleg video no less, which adds to the freaky factor given the subject matter. Let The Right One In is my favorite vampire film of all time. The upcoming Hollywood remake of that one worries me, but I digress. Is there a particular author, book, or film that has profoundly influenced you as a writer?
ARB: Of course. That's how you avoid writer's block—you read like a fiend and become inspired. I had to read "The Telltale Heart" as a reading assignment in high school, and that was the first time I ever enjoyed my homework. That's when I knew I wanted to do this. Whoever I read at the time will influence a certain short story. One tale up for consideration had rich descriptions influenced by Ray Garton's Live Girls. Other notable influences include: H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Reece, Tamara Thorne and Gary A. Braunbeck.
RVS: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman. They're all prolific and I love their short stories. Chuck Palahniuk for his unique style. I'm a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Night Gallery. I'm also into comic books, one of my all time favs is Rising Stars.
MTM: I am a comic buff myself. Anyone who doesn’t think comics are relevant to literature should read Gaiman’s Sandman series. Amazing stuff. How did the idea for Tales From The Abyss come about?
RVS: Alan and I were just tossing around ideas and this was one of them. We decided to contribute a couple of stories each and make it available for free a) to help spread the word about our individual works and b) to give readers a sample of what we do.
Plus, I've never collaborated with another writer so I figured this would be a fun thing to try.
It's also subscription only and absolutely free, so you have to join the list to receive it on June 1. The list has other perks but this is the initial launch.
ARB: I've always wanted to collaborate with another writer, but it just never happened. There was one time I was going to collab' with Elizabeth Herrington, but it just never came to be. So I was thrilled that Ro was willing to do it. "RSVP" is the first story we wrote together, but it isn't included in Tales. I don't want people to get the wrong idea. Tales is two stories from her and two from me, free, just to give you a taste of what you'll be getting later. The next book will have even better stories and, depending on whether the one we wrote together is published in one of the pro-payment 'zines or not, "RSVP" could possibly be included in the next book. That is the most brutal story I've ever taken part in, so if any of you get a chance to collab' I'd definitely jump at it. Two heads are better than one, the old cliché goes.
MTM: The concept for “RSVP” is intriguing. How does the process for co-authoring a story differ from writing on your own?
RVS: A little bit of compromise goes a long way. It was surprisingly not difficult, for this particular story anyway. I had the idea in my head so I started the story then I sent it off to A.R., I gave him a rough idea of where I needed the story to go but he was free to craft additional characters and just go crazy with it. I was pleased with the result and he just made some minor edits. I expected a little bit of ego clashing from both of us but it wasn't even an issue. I think the secret is to let the other person do what they do best. If you combine your strengths then there's no way to f**k things up really. Plus, we set a realistic deadline and communicated well, which definitely helps.
ARB: Well, to begin with, I wasn't sure how the process even worked. She and I being in different parts of the world, I just guessed that one would start the story and another would finish it. The plot was Ro's idea, so she started it, and I added all the gory details. It worked very well that way so we'll probably continue to do that.
MTM: What can readers expect from Tales From The Abyss? Can you give us a teaser?
ARB: I'll let Ro describe her stories. As far as my pieces, "Alien Consciousness" is what the title suggests. It's about a part of your body taking on a sentient consciousness all its own. I originally wrote the tale for Everyday Weirdness, but it didn't strike the editor's fancy. "The Woman in Black" is a ghost story.
RVS: My stories "The F Bomb" and "Arc of Descent" are connected, using one of the scenes as a link between the two. It's a subtle link but if you're paying attention you'll get it. "The F Bomb" is written during one of my experimental moods, it almost reads like prose and it's a glimpse of the alien and human interaction in an earth where alien beings act as overlords, just because they can and because there are humans who are willing participants to their schemes and experiments. "Arc of Descent" is about one of the experiments I just mentioned. You'll be seeing more from this universe, I think.
MTM: Individually, what is next on your writing agenda after the collaboration?
ARB: We'll collaborate on one more short story e-book, then a novella together, then a novel
RVS: My main focus right now is a zombie novel called Panic in Year 2020, which is a direct result of a short story I wrote. I plan on releasing it in podcast form, completely unabridged, as I'm writing it. This puts a lot of pressure on me to just crank the sucker out but I work best under pressure. I have two other novels right behind that, just taunting me. I have a short story collection that I'm compiling and I'm really excited about, I'm shooting for a Fall 2010 release date for that one. My Sid Valentine universe is expanding as a serial. I'm also writing a script for a graphic novel that I'll be illustrating myself. On top of that, additional collaborations. I'll be posting detailed stuff of all my writing adventures in my production journal (Hooligans only, so you better sign up kids!) once I get that set up. I think that's plenty enough to keep me insanely busy.
MTM: Okay, now for something fun. I love to hear authors’ thoughts on the “Hollywood treatment.” Assume you have just won the equivalent of the literary lottery and a major film studio wants to turn your work into a big-budget motion picture. Which of your stories would you like to see as a film, and who would you want to be involved (actors, director, etc.)? Also, CGI or no CGI?
RVS: This is a tough one, Sid Valentine series would be fun.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez/Q.Tarantino
Sid can be played by Bruce Willis or Will Smith. I'm leaning towards Will Smith, he's more charismatic.
Sid's cousin, CEO of Discord, Inc. can be played by Nick Cage.
(yes, my characters are creatures from myth, folklores, fairy tales living in a modern day metropolis, so I say there's no racial boundaries here in terms of family members).
CGI is fine but shouldn't overpower the film.
Soundtrack - varies, as long as it's bad-ass.
ARB: That would be total dream actualization and the best thing that could happen! *Fingers crossed* I'm counting on all of my solo novels becoming movies when I get an agent and a publisher but, for the sake of this interview, "RSVP," of course. No CGI. I like the horror movies made in the 60's, 70's and early 80's the best. They used the scare element instead of relying on FX. As far as actresses: Emily Perkins, Tatiana Maslany, Katherine Isabelle and Jenna Malone. I don't know about actors. Probably the guys from House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects.
MTM: I hope to see those on the big screen someday soon. I will be looking for my VIP tickets on opening weekend. Big thanks to both of you for taking the time for this interview. I look forward to reading Tales From The Abyss soon!
ARB: Thank you very much for your interest in our labor of love, Mike.
RVS: Thanks for the kick-ass interview and allowing me to embrace my inner media whore. That's always fun.
MTM: If it makes me a media pimp, then I’ll take that as a win!
R. Van Saint is a New Yorker living in Austin, TX. She writes dark/sci-fi/weird/pulp fiction.
An avid blogger. A new media nerd. Soon to be podcaster.
Wanna know more? Follow her adventures and experiments at http://www.zerotorockstar.com/
Don't forget to join The Hooligans.
A.R. BRAUN has numerous publication credits in Downstate Story, the Vermin anthology and the Heavy Metal Horror anthology; Horror Bound magazine; and Micro Horror magazine. “The Interloper” won story of the month through a unanimous vote in the June Full Moon in Bloom issue at SNM Horror, and the piece was included in the anthology, Bonded by Blood 2: a Romance in Red. SNM Horror published two more of his stories. He’ll be included in the upcoming e-book, The Complete Guide to Writing Horror. You can reach A. R. at http://arbraun.com/.
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