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The world ended not with a bang, but with a grain of pollen on a puff of wind. People called them serpent weeds, and they consumed all the crops and eventually entire cities and civilization itself. A power rose from the ashes calling itself the Divine Rite, and they asserted a deadly new order in this ravaged world. Putting survivors to the test in a most literal way, they devised a yearly test called Justification. Pass and you can live. Fail, and you receive your Last Supper. This is the only life John Welland ever knew. But after his wife receives her final feast, he gradually immerses himself in a new rebellion, with a group of underground revolutionaries fighting to escape the Divine Rite’s reach. But the farther they travel across America’s haunted landscape, the more surreal and alien everything becomes. Not just the weeds, or the creatures with extraordinary powers, but John himself.
Publishers weekly says of THE LAST SUPPER in a starred review: “Marrying speculative, realistic, and fabulist traditions to dystopian formula, Dickson’s paean to individualism both breaks and strengthens the heart. Welland’s character receives “no comfort as he comes face to face with his own tragedy.” The Kafkaesque world of warped normalcy and cruel politics brings intimacy to the classic theme of self-definition in the face of oppression.”
Today I have the honor and pleasure of interviewing the incredibly talented Allison M. Dickson.
PCG: Well, you’ve gone and written yourself a post-apocalypse. What are we to do with you? What brought you to this vision of dystopia? Are you a prophet?
PCG: We all know it’s coming, but there are a good trillion or so ideas of just what it will be. Which fictional -or sincerely predicted- endorama stuck in your skull during your formative years? How much of that influences this here shit-hitting-the-fan-tasy?
AMD: I had the good fortune of being a teenager in the 90s, when things were relatively peaceful and people were far less afraid of the world. Then 9/11 happened, and we all know the rest. Though we do a good job of rattling our sabers at one another, I imagine if humanity were really to face extinction, it would be at the behest of forces well beyond our control. Asteroids, viruses, climate-driven catastrophes, supervolcanoes or some other Permian-esque event. I cut my teeth on The Stand. I ate up books like The Dark Tower series, where reality is coming apart at the seams. I guess if any of that stuff influenced THE LAST SUPPER, it’s those things, only with a bit of a helping hand from people. Nature will have its way one way or another, but I think a human hand will tip the first domino. Or perhaps already has.
PCG: Ever seen that 50s sci fi flick The Beginning of The End? Reason I ask is because its Big Bad is an army of enormous locusts. There’s an enormous locust on your cover, so for me, there’s a bit of a retro vibe. Would you keep a giant locust as a pet, if it was reasonably manageable? Or are bugs too grody for ya?
AMD: I haven’t seen that movie, but now I feel driven to watch it, because I’m fascinated by locusts. You know, I’m not the biggest fan of bugs, but it’s weird how some drive my phobias and others don’t. I actually love grasshoppers and the like! Cicadas are pretty cool too, and praying mantises. They have the most fascinating exoskeletons, and they seem very intelligent to me. Keep one as a pet, though? Nah. I’m happy to admire them from afar.
PCG: Okay, down to brass tacks. You wrote a short story in 2008 that eventually expanded into this novel. King did much the same with his story Captain Tripps, which sparked The Stand, as well as Jerusalem’s Lot. Do you feel that starting with the short format is a good measure of a story’s viability as a novel?
AMD: Actually, it’s interesting how novels start out, because I know you have developed a lot of your novels from screenplays you’ve written. I have developed quite a few longer projects from short stories, though it isn’t a strategy I actually set out to use. STRINGS evolved from a short story as well. When I write a short, my intention is always to just let it be that, but sometimes you get to the end, and a few weeks or even months or years later, you find there’s still plenty of thread left to spool out. I do think using the short format is a great way to map characters and get a basic trajectory started, but a decent expansion depends on what kind of story you have written. Starting with something more open-ended is vital, I think. I tried to turn “Dust” into the novel, but there was too much finality in the original story. I did stretch it out and add an additional 6000 words for a special edition recently, but that’s as far as I ever got. STRINGS was very easy to develop, because it basically picked up right where the short story left off.
PCG: Without becoming too political, this idea of food changing in some way so that it becomes uncontrollable or deadly may not be too far off the mark in the near future. Are you trying to warn us? You’re a cooking hobbyist, so would it feel like loss for you to have the luxury of cooking and experimenting with recipes disappear?
AMD: As I was putting together the final incarnation of the story, I was in the middle of reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which spoke a lot about how our food supply has changed so much over the decades, and I think a good bit of that seeped in. Be that as it may, though, I’m not sure if my intention was to warn people about that with this story. If I write too much with a message in my head, it has a way of stilting things. THE LAST SUPPER is more about self-discovery than anything external. The oddities of the world in which John Welland finds himself are more of the vehicle for him learning the great and terrible things he’s capable of. As for losing the ability to cook if some of the events of this story came to pass, I think I can adapt. Being of limited means most times, I thrive on finding solutions and alternatives when options are few. And the good news is in the Supperverse, the fermenting of various fruits and grains lives on. As long as that remains possible, I know I can survive.
PCG: Which character in The Last Supper has the most you in it? Do you intentionally choose a character to represent your feelings and opinions going in, or does that happen organically –or at all?
AMD: I think it’s so impossible separate yourself or your personal knowledge completely from your characters, at least if you’re writing honestly. Even if those characters are terrible people, they aren’t truly three-dimensional until you put that spark of humanity in them and let them be complex, and that usually happens when you imprint something of yourself onto them, even if it’s something subtle that only you can see. I try to refrain from letting characters be my mouthpieces for my views – that’s Heinlein territory, and it was cute when he did it, but it can be tiresome when authors do it to excess. But John represents the part of myself that is on a constant journey of self-discovery, and all the pain and fear and guilt that goes with it. Genevieve represents my more feminine sensibilities, but also the no-bullshit side. Turpin, the old man, represents the part of me that knows the score deep down, even if I’m not ready to face it.
PCG: There’s a pretty elaborate world built here that delves into different versions of bio-domes, banned literature, as well as hardcore social upheaval. Was the idea to keep it as close as possible to the direction our society could very well go, given recent events, or did you want to delve a bit more into fantasy? Of course, this question assumes that those are a matter of relative perspective.
AMD: In the earliest version I wrote of this story, it had none of the fantastical elements, and I think I had intended to keep it more about a reality-based upheaval. But eventually I started weaving in the fantasy and mystical elements and it just took on a life of its own. I have often felt that sci-fi is a genre of possibilities, which is why I don’t like to strictly define SUPPER as sci-fi, but more of a mixed bag of sci-fi and fantasy. A bit in the same way Star Wars is, I guess.
PCG: As a personal aside, I’m divided between looking at your blog entries about TLS and just letting it surprise me. STRINGS was page after page of surprises, and I really liked that. I don’t expect that TLS will be as intense, at least not as relentlessly so. Are there any nightmare moments for us hardcore horror sickos?
AMD: Good question! While there are more harrowing and sad moments in the book than downright frightening, there is one good nightmarish scene that takes place in a basement. Aren’t basements pretty much the scariest of human inventions? I think so. They’re basically like graves beneath our houses that we put our junk in.
PCG: So The Mystic Oracle tells me there has been some interest in bringing some AMD to the film world. How much can you tell us about that?
AMD: Well, I had the good fortune of having a gentleman name Jim Terr take heavy interest in my Consumption Trilogy for film development, and I got to sign my very first film option earlier this year. So far he’s done a staged reading of a script he developed, but he’s also hoping to pitch it to some big wigs in the film industry. As you probably know, getting things like this to catch on in Hollywood is like trying to light a campfire with wet matches, but it’s just been fascinating (and a little scary?) watching people act out my work, and I remain hopeful something will spark. People can watch the reading if they want to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DognYowCidI
PCG: 2014 has been a good year for you! Celebrate with us a bit, your accomplishments and coming soons, that we might worship.
AMD: Well, in addition to seeing TLS enter the world, Strings had a great run in its first year. I also completed my suspense novel KUDZU back in June, and that earned me representation by my agent, Stephanie Rostan. Hoping we see big things happen with that one in 2015. I also sold a story to Apex Magazine (my first pro-rate sale), which will be appearing in the January 2015 issue, and I had the great fortune of having two of my stories appear in anthologies (Wrapped in White and Wrapped in Black) by the lovely Sekhmet Press! I also hit the comic con circuit in my area this year with my good friend and Colt Coltrane artist, Justin Wasson, and it’s been great meeting local people and watching them take interest in my books – Justin is hard at work on the cover for the next Coltrane book releasing in March 2015! Finally, I was just offered a position to teach a writing workshop in January of 2015 at a local arts center. Hoping it goes well enough that I can get more workshop gigs, either at the center or at writing conventions. So it’s been a fantastic year, and a lot of seeds have been planted that are set to bloom next year, and that’s always the most exciting part. It keeps me going.
PCG: Other than Yerz Trooly, which author could call you tomorrow, ask to collaborate, and send you into an absolute giddy headspace of uncertainty and terror and anguished joy?
AMD: Actually it’s funny you say that, because I would totally love to collaborate with you on something one day. Other authors would be Chuck Wendig or Joe Hill. I don’t consider my style identical to theirs, but I think we could complement, challenge, and energize each other, and it would be a pretty awesome product at the end.
PCG: What kind of music or other ambiance, do you employ during the brutal rapture of creating?
AMD: Brutal rapture is a great choice of words. It really depends on the project. When I’m working on Colt Coltrane, it absolutely has to be jazz. But I have a selection of movie scores I like to choose from with varying moods. The Red Violin is a big favorite, as is the score for The Fountain. A recent favorite has been the Hans Zimmer score for Interstellar, which is just so awe-inspiring. When I was writing Kudzu, I listened to Carolina Drama by The Raconteurs almost religiously. I also listened to a lot of forlorn sounding bluegrass, like You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive by Ruby Friedman.
PCG: So, back to the apocalypse: how long do we as a race have? What can we do to stave off the screaming and the suffering and the zombies and the seas of blood?
AMD: Honestly, I think we have longer than we think we do. That’s usually the case. Human, being cursed with knowledge of their own mortality, love to meditate heavily on death and mass extinction. Of course that doesn’t mean millions of us won’t die in the rising seas and wars perpetuated ugly fights over greed and dwindling resources, but that has been the story of human existence since its inception. I guess if we don’t find a way off this rock or learn to adapt harmoniously, we probably have another 5000 years or so before we either die out or the earth opens up its maw and swallows us. But who knows how human we’ll actually be in even 500 years? I imagine we might be some plasticized hive mind by then.
PCG: Far as you know, are there more sojourns to Dystopia in your future?
AMD: The Last Supper is actually a planned trilogy. Hopefully the first book is successful enough to warrant the second book. If it isn’t, I’m actually satisfied with where this story ends. Either way, I always have hellish futures swirling around in my brain. And equally hellish present days. Anyone looking for a case of the shiny happies within my pages, regardless of genre, will be sorely disappointed.
Allison M. Dickson writes dark contemporary fiction, covering both speculative and realistic realms. Her debut psychological horror novel, STRINGS, released to rave reviews in 2013 and has topped Amazon’s bestseller lists several times. She is also the author of an abundance of short stories as well as the 1940s sci-fi noir Colt Coltrane series. Readers can look forward to her upcoming dystopian epic, THE LAST SUPPER, later in 2014. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found wandering the urban sprawl of Dayton, OH with her husband and two rapidly growing children, or crawling some dungeon in search of good loot. For more information on how to reach Allison or to read her blog, visit http://www.allisonmdicksonbooks.com.
Today we welcome David James Bright to the PCG Blog.
David is the author of the new release from Hobbes End Publishing
When a mysterious fog sets upon the small town of Rowley, Pennsylvania, its residents quickly find themselves isolated from the world. As the thick haze envelopes their once peaceful town, all communication systems fail and residents begin to go missing. As order gives way panic, the town devolves into violent lawlessness, every citizen with a score to settle acting out their darkest impulses hidden by the cloak of fog.
Amidst the chaos, Ben Dowling realizes something is terribly wrong. It’s not just how people are acting crazy; there’s something more. There’s something out there butchering people. Something that is evil and vicious.
Something that is hungry.
Ben and his childhood friend Elise venture out into the unknown and confront the shadowy figure behind the mist. Dodging the chaos in the streets they have only each other to depend upon as they try to save their hometown from complete destruction.
The Harbinger awaits them.
What kind of music do you listen to for inspiration?
I don’t listen to music often when I write, but there are times I like to turn on classical music as I’m typing away. It is both soothing and relaxing, and I find it loosens my mind up and the words come flowing out.
Have you ever started a project, felt it run out of steam and had to abandon it?
I’ve had a few projects that I started, just toying around with them and seeing where they would go, and I lost steam and nothing came of them. Only one time did I approach a project seriously and run out of gas. I believe I got 10,000 words or so in and then the well went dry. It’s strange – I still had the plot outlined and knew where the story was going, I just couldn’t sit down and write it. I have that project as well as the others saved in case I ever feel the urge to complete them.
What’s the most shocking book or story you’ve ever read?
I’m currently reading Haunted by Chuck Palahinuk, and that already takes the cake. I thought some of my stuff was vile – now I’m not even sure if I can compare.
Do you remember a particular moment or incident that made you decide to be a writer
My freshman year of college, when I attended the University of Pittsburgh, I met someone who would end up becoming a dear friend of mine. We were talking and I told him I was a writer. I told him this because I’d come up with story ideas, start a few casually, and never really take them seriously. It dawned on me then that I was lying to him – I wasn’t a writer, I was a dilettante. In that moment I realized I should harness my creativity and truly become a writer. I couldn’t let it all go to waste.
Do you have a certain space and time set aside for writing or is it more of a free-form process?
Definitely more of a free-form process. If certain days look like they will be free I’ll try to get writing in but by no means do I schedule what I’ll do, how much I’ll do, etc. I’m always thinking about my projects, so when the inspiration particularly strikes that’s when I try to get as much done as I can.
How would you describe your writing style?
It’s certainly evolved since I wrote Harbinger. I think it’s interesting that the public is going to get to read Harbinger and it’s style, when I have four other completed works that all vary very differently. My style, especially with Harbinger, is very literary, somewhat poetic. Very verbose, descriptive of features and thoughts, and using beautiful words often. As I’ve progressed as a writer, however, I’ve tried to cut down on the density of my writer, and my most recent projects are much leaner, allowing the reader to do more of the work. I think there’s much to be appreciated in both approaches.
What other sorts of themes or genres would you like to explore?
I’ve been writing in the horror and transgressive fiction genres. I’m starting to dive more into transgressive and I’m loving it. As for other genres, I’m interested in writing a fantasy novel. I have a few concepts in mind (one of which was the project I abandoned) and would love to break into that genre.
Please briefly describe your path to publication.
It was long one. As stated, Harbinger was my first serious attempt at a novel. After a few months I landed representation with Trident Media Group, a large and well known agency. I thought my journey was over – I thought I made it!
The journey had only just begun. After getting rejected from Random House, Penguin, and a few others, I nearly had a deal with Amazon’s 47North. After going back and forth on it for a few weeks, the editor eventually decided to pass. Months later my agency left the agency and no other agent there desired to represent a horror author. The relationship with Trident Media Group ended (after about a year) and I took my work to Hobbes End, who were enthusiastic about it. Working with them has been a true pleasure.
Who are your favorite fictional antagonist and protagonist and what was it about them that struck a chord for you?
I’m going to go the Palahinuk route again here and say the narrator/Tyler Durden from Fight Club. Same person, technically the same character, definitely the protagonist and the antagonist. I enjoy the jaded view of the world that comes from the narrator and his observations about people, society, and their habits. I love Tyler Durden’s philosophy and methodology. I think both characters really provide stunning insight into human nature in very different ways; that’s why that book will always be one of my favorites.
Aside from writing, what is your favorite artistic medium?
I enjoy paintings. No ability in creating them, but I have a few artist friends and I always love viewing/discussing their works. I also enjoy museum trips to observe paintings and learn the history behind them. It’s the one talent I lack I sorely wish I had.
David James Bright is an author of horror and transgressive fiction. His debut novel, Harbinger, has received acclaim from such authors as New York Times Best Seller Jonathan Maberry. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Scranton and resides in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Welcome to Smashwords, Patrick C. Greene.
You currently utilize Smashwords to present the readers with “permanent freebies” – What are your future plans with Smashwords?
Yes. That is correct. One of my publishers, Sekhmet Press, offers a few of my older short stories for free. Although, my best-selling short story, Bill’s Becoming, is now also available via Smashwords (iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobos…) for $0.99. And I believe that trend may continue. My entire catalog is available via Amazon – short stories, anthologies from Hobbes End, Sekhmet Press and Rymfire Books, and my novel PROGENY from Hobbes End Publishing.
What is the first work of fiction you remember writing?
I wrote a story about a giant praying mantis for school when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. When it was time to introduce my monster, I spelled out ‘GIANT PRAYING MANTIS!’ in scary font. I had this affinity for weird bugs and lizards.
Your work, while definitely horror, seems to reach into other genres as well. Is that something you do consciously?
I believe a story of any genre should be first and foremost, a drama. People joke that The Walking Dead for example, consists of more scenes with the characters arguing than battling zombies. Even George Romero has leveled that criticism. But the strong characters and their efforts to remain the people they were before shit went bad is what keeps the series going. Romero’s films themselves were heavy on the drama.I became interested in martial arts and action films at a young age so I do tend to draw from that to build characters and create suspense. Maintaining a breathless pace seems to work well for many of the scenarios in which I write, but I love a good mood piece as well. And of course, you can’t deny the opportunities for scares in the sci-fi genre.
You have a story in the vampire short story collection Wrapped In Red as well as a vampire novel coming soon. What is your opinion of the current state of vampires?
A few years back when Interview With A Vampire was being adapted to film, there was already some dispute over beautiful, angsty vamps versus the more straight forward Nosferatu types. If we trace the lore all the way back to its origins in old Europe, we find a nasty, mindless, completely feral creature with little humanity. It was probably Stoker who brought a little romance to their game, so really, who are any of us to be critical of one type of vamp over another? There are nearly as many variations of them as there humankind.That said, we should probably try to settle on a general set of guidelines. I haven’t read or seen Twilight, but I doubt there’s a context in which that kind of vampire is scary. So bottom line: let’s keep them scary!
What are your favorite types of monsters and sub-genres of horror?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Japanese monsters. Nobody imagines a monster quite like the Japanese, from the Godzilla/Gamera films to their most twisted anime’. I’ve also gone through phases with all the Universal classics, and as you might imagine, I find the legendary monsters of cryptozoological lore to be endlessly fascinating. Ultimately, a monster that is or was human is the most interesting.
You’re an avowed fan of kung fu films and martial arts in general, often giving your characters fighting experience. Do you feel it’s possible to combine martial arts and horror and make it work?
The Resident Evil films have done okay with that kind of crossover I think. There are actually a good many examples, but I think it’s a thin line. If you’re protagonist is too powerful or heroic then your villain is not as scary, and scares are priority one. Chuck Norris was in a movie called Silent Rage that worked in starts and stops. It’s the same reason horror comedies generally fail; one or the other, folks. Let’s not try to get too cute.
As a screenwriter, how do you feel when you see great horror books adapted for the screen?
I’d rather see great films adapted as books! It’s asking a lot of people who are hamstrung by budget, by creative input from several conflicting contributors, and by everything from weather to location, to ask them to do justice to a book which is really limited only by imagination. They should all be viewed with that understanding. I say, if it draws attention to a great source material then it’s all good.
Your short Silver Surrogate is so surreal, at times it’s just this side of a nightmare. How hard was it to attain that level of oddness?
As any writer will tell you, most stories seem to just be filtering themselves through you. I felt the best way to maintain some kind of dream-like feel was to not set boundaries, in terms of “this” reality versus that of dreams, or free-form drawing, or what have you. So once the characters started doing things that didn’t necessarily make sense at first glance, I knew I couldn’t fight it. I had to let them play out their sick, irrational schemes and hope none of it spilled over into my mind or this–our, world.
Horror is a genre of ever changing trends. What do you see as the future of horror?
It seems we can always count on a handful of archetypes, all leading back to the unknown. Teens will always go camping, scientists will always play God, humans will always want more than they have at an unimaginable cost. As technology begins to take over our lives I think the future of horror will be based around -not the negative effects of that technology, a la Terminator, but the potential loss of it. Already, every horror film has to create a scenario in which cell phones don’t function or are broken or lost. The long-forgotten Y2K scare might have taught us a lesson about the over-reliance on tech, but instead it only served as a Boy Who Cried Wolf, and we are all the villagers, inured to the alarms that have proven false one too many times. Many of us are over-reliant to the point that I can see mass hysteria taking hold tomorrow if we lose internet service, or the ability to text and thus be forced to engage in terrifying person to person communication.
You’ve taken to posting horror haiku on your facebook and twitter accounts on a regular basis. What is the origin story of that?
The first one came about a few years back when a horror website, Dread Central I believe, ran a contest, the entry requirement of which was to submit a haiku based on the Hellraiser mythos. It came pretty easily, and I enjoyed how the form caused me to attempt to evoke a feeling or even tell a story in such strict structure. I like to believe that in a past life, I was a samurai who was renowned for my ability to tell amazing ghost stories that shivered the bones of even the most hardened battlefield veterans.
You’re a self-described aficionado of dark art. In this age of ebooks, what are your feelings on cover art for horror books?
I confess that I miss the painted covers of the past; even the bad ones. It seems to be easier to compose a cover these days and some, digital or otherwise, are very good, very evocative. My wife, chief of Sekhmet Press has gotten to be quite nimble in coming up with covers and advertising materials, so my hat’s off to her and anyone who can create an eye-catching piece. The cover for Progeny, by Jordan Benoit, is outstanding, and I’m darkly blessed to have his work calling attention to mine.Of course, these days we’re dealing with much smaller images when our potential reader is scanning amazon for their next read. They have to be brighter and perhaps more to the point. It may be true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that cover still has to present some element of the book’s feel and/or plot to draw in the reader, so I believe it’s something worth fretting over, especially for newer or indie authors. Right behind editing services, a good cover artist is a worthwhile investment.
Welcome to Books, Babes, and the Business
We will be celebrating women in fiction the entire month of February.
We will host a guest blogger each day, then on February 28th from 1-3 pm EST you can join us on Facebook for a big party! We’ll have virtual refreshments, hilarious games, and REAL PRIZES! Don’t miss it! Invite your friends!
Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, STRINGS. What was your inspiration for it?
A: The book originally began life as a short story I had out for awhile on Amazon called “The Good Girls,” where I told the story of a young and indebted prostitute assigned to visit a horrifying hermit as her final job. But when other readers told me the story read like the beginning to a much longer book, I decided to run with that and the book was born a short time later. I really wanted to tell a story that didn’t have a true hero. I wanted to explore elements of control and freedom, and whether or not those things were illusions. I was inspired a lot by the great crime fiction of Gillian Flynn and Dennis Lehane, but I wanted to add my own special…
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I recently had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Lyle Blackburn of Fouke Monster and Ghoultown fame!
Lyle Blackburn is a frequent contributor and cryptozoology advisor to Rue Morgue magazine, one of the leading horror media publications in print today. Lyle’s Monstro Bizarro blog is featured on Rue Morgue’s website and his “Monstro Bizarro Presents” news column appears monthly in the print magazine. He has also contributed to websites such as Cryptomundo.com, and has been a featured speaker at paranormal conferences and horror conventions around the country.
Growing up in Texas, Lyle has always been fascinated with legends, lore and sighting reports of real-life “monsters.” He has studied the phenomenon in legend, fact and film, and is the author of The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster.
Lyle is also the founder and frontman for the Texas-based rock band, Ghoultown. Since 1998, Ghoultown has released eight albums, toured extensively in both the U.S. and Europe, and has appeared on several horror movie soundtracks. Most recently, Lyle and his band collaborated with legendary television horror hostess, Elvira – Mistress of the Dark, to create her new theme song, which was also turned into an extended music video. The video was featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre television show, which is syndicated throughout the U.S. on local stations.
Your book The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of The Fouke Monster has been selling consistently well and receiving great reviews. It even has a Video Promo. How long did you spend putting it together?
From the time I started researching and writing, it took one year. Of course I had prior knowledge and experiences that went into the book, but as far as from the time I drove up to Fouke with the intention of book research to the date I finished and got a publishing deal, it was almost one year exactly. During that year I went to Arkansas many times to conduct interviews, visit the Texarkana libraries, and even go into the swamps and woods myself so I could investigate some of the sighting locations.
Word is there’s a follow up in the works. Can you tell us anything about it yet?
One of these days I plan to write a follow-up to Boggy Creek, but it’ll be awhile before I start. Since releasing the book, I’ve already investigated several new Fouke Monster sightings, found out about some more old ones, and also dug up some more interesting facts that will make for a great book. But it still needs time to develop more before starting that. There’s still stuff coming in so I don’t wanna jump the gun. In other words, I don’t wanna throw out some sequel just because the first book was popular. It needs to be worthwhile for myself and the reader. In the meantime, I have a list of other cryptid books I plan to write, not to mention I just finished a new book that will be out this fall.
When did you start hunting monsters? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I was always interested in strange creatures like bigfoot, yeti, and lake monsters, but never really considered going out to look for them until much later in life. After seeing The Legend of Boggy Creek as a kid, I did look over my shoulder when we hunted or went camping in Arkansas, but my interest was mostly confined to reading other people’s accounts in books. Then after years of playing in bands, which pretty much confined me to the jungles of nightclubs and music venues, I decided to cut that off and start getting back to my love of the outdoors and monsters. I started with bigfoot research, which led to the book, which has now led to most of my time being spent researching cryptids both in a scholarly way and in the field.
The Legend of Boggy Creek was a major inspiration for my novel Progeny as well. You’ve amassed a comprehensive list of Bigfoot flicks. What are some of your favorites?
My favorite, of course, is The Legend of Boggy Creek. For me it not only satisfies my craving for scary bigfoot tales, but also reminds me so much of my childhood going through small towns like Fouke on the way to bow hunt with my dad. There was always something creepy about old towns, as if they held monstrous secrets that outsiders could never know. Such is the basis for many other horror films, I suppose.
Some of my other favorite classic bigfoot films are Creature From Black Lake, Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot, and Snow Beast. As far as new films, I like Savage and one that was never widely released called Paper Dolls. But the best of the new crop, and my favorite besides Boggy Creek, is Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek. It’s not released yet, but I had a chance to see a special screening of it last month. It’s simply amazing. Something that people probably won’t expect from Bobcat, but certainly one of the best bigfoot films – if not one of the best horror films – I’ve seen in awhile.
I’ve a had a few. The most notable was when myself and a friend were canoeing in an Arkansas bayou late one night. We heard six evenly spaced howls that sent chills up our spines. We’ve heard all kinds of animals in the woods over the years, but this was something altogether different. It was a large animal that sounded very unique. Luckily we got one of the howls recorded. Back at home I listened to numerous sound clips of animals common to the area, but couldn’t find any matches. To this day, I’m not sure what we heard.
In previous interviews you’ve stated that you are more inclined to the theory that sasquatch and its variants are flesh and blood creatures, rather than interdimensional travelers with supernatural powers. Does this extend to other strange topics, such as UFOs and ghosts? In other words, have you pretty well ruled out validity of paranormal phenomena?
Not necessarily. I think it depends on how we define paranormal. By definition, unidentified flying objects undoubtedly exist. People do see strange lights and crafts in the sky. The question is, are they driven by an extraterrestrial force? Nobody can conclusively prove that one way or the other, so it certainly falls into the category of paranormal until we have more concrete evidence to go on. Ghosts too. I think that people are seeing, hearing, and experiencing things that can’t be easily explained. The question is, are these the immaterial forms of a dead people? Again, nobody can say at this point, so that too falls into the category of paranormal.
If you somehow obtained indisputable proof of the existence of one of these creatures, what do you think you would do with it?
I would probably consult a few of my closest and most well-respected friends in the bigfoot research community so that we might be able to thoroughly document the evidence before going public. Then I would probably hold a press conference or something so that no one could dispute that we had something before the government or some other major scientific organization moves in. I think it would be an earth-shattering discovery to find something that is so human-like as bigfoot appears to be, so it shouldn’t be something taken lightly or made public in a haphazard way.
Like everything else, Bigfoot and his cousins have found their way to reality television and its ilk. Do you find this to be a positive or negative development for the science of cryptozoology?
It’s both good and bad, I guess. It’s good, in that it makes people feel like they won’t be called crazy if they do report a sighting. But bad, since reality television is not the same as thorough science or research. People may draw conclusions about cryptozoology based on the approach of these shows, or even the cast members, when it may not necessarily represent what truly goes on in the field.
That being said, I personally don’t get all stressed out about these shows. I understand that it’s entertainment television and I choose to enjoy the shows, or not. I’ve even been on some of them. Some of them are fun and some are kinda worthless, but overall I think it’s gotten the public fired up about the subject of mystery monsters, and to me, that’s not a bad thing. So I just don’t spend much energy worrying about things I can’t really control. I just try to write good books and present good lectures. That’s the part I can control, so I focus my energies there.
What other anomalous phenomena interest you?
I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories and sightings. I love creepy stuff, so anything like that is cool. I just got the In Search Of… DVD set, so it’s fun to watch all the different episodes which cover so many weird things. The world is always a better place when there’s a bit of mystery involved.
Onto music. Your band Ghoultown has been together since 98 which is a pretty long run for a band. How do you guys maintain the magic?
I think the secret to our longevity is that we don’t take it too seriously. The music business can really kick you in the ass, so at the end of the day you just have to try and have fun doing what you do. We’re also good friends, so that helps too.
On the Ghoultown website, the band bio concludes with the statement to the effect that you are not a part of any genre, trend or musical scene. Why do you feel it’s important to make this disclaimer–if that’s what it is?
I guess you could call it a statement of independence. But really it’s just something that popped into my head as I was writing up the new bio. It sounded cool, so that was that.
There’s no doubt that Ghoultown is a unique melding of genres. Who are some of your influences and favorites?
Spaghetti westerns and horror movies are the main influence for the band. Most of the bands I listen to have no influence or relation to what I do in Ghoultown, so there’s not very much influence coming in from other music.
Of your own songs, which mean the most to you for whatever reason?
“Return of the Living Dead” is my favorite because I think technically, it’s the best song I’ve written. Some of my other favorites are “Under the Phantom Moon,” Walking Through the Desert With a Crow” and “The Worm.” I hardly ever go back and listen to our music once it’s been recorded and released, but these are songs I listen to and say ‘wow, did I really write that?’
Anybody ever tell you you look like that dude from Monster Magnet?
Yes. The clerks at the big retail guitar store give me discount because they think I’m in Monster Magnet. I just roll with it.
You’re secret’s safe with me bro–but I can’t vouch for the freakos who read this blog.
We’re thrilled to have here today Abner from Patrick C Greene’s new horror adventure PROGENY. Abner is a fifty four year old hunter living in Eagle Ridge North Carolina. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Abner. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
Pleasure to be here, (ma’am/sir.) I reckon he done a right smart job-I was a skeered all over again, even after all this time, when I read his book. I would like to say that I don’t think I was quite as skittish as he made me out to be, but all them other fellers-the ones what stayed alive, they all say I was actin’ purdy womanly, and I gotta admit–I try not to think about it…
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