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In The Rusty Chair!
A Quiet Apocalypse
By Dave Jeffery
“A Quiet Apocalypse” shatters all expectations of the stereotypical end of days novels. I’ve read hundreds of them, that being my “thing” and all, not sure why but I digress. This story was unlike anything that I have ever read before and it opened up a whole new thought process behind what the end of days might actually look like. Gone are the theatrics of zombies chasing you; what do you do when the shit actually hits the fan? What might it truly look like? Dave Jeffrey has created a world so startlingly plausible that the sheer terror of a reality like this one is enough to leave you awake night after night. Perhaps that fact that we are in the midst of an actual global pandemic helped to drive this one home a bit more, even though it was published a full year before Covid hit.
A virus, MNG-U, or Meningitis Unspecified has hit the globe, killing most of the population and rendering the rest deaf. There are new classifications in the world now, and they are not rich, poor and middle class. You now have HARKS, which are the survivors of MNG-U, that can still hear, the HARBINGERS, which are those people that were naturally born deaf, and the Samaritans from nearby CaTHEDRAL, a faction of the newly-deaf that hunt for HARKS and HARBINGERS.
If found, HARKS are enslaved and used to help protect the newly-deaf survivors while HARBINGERS are beaten, tortured and punished for bringing MNG-U into the world, which is now a baseless but widespread belief.
Chris, is a HARK, being enslaved by a newly-deaf survivor named Crowley on his private farm. Crowley has maimed Chris in an effort to prevent any escape attempts and Chris can only hobble with a bad limp, while he does the farm work and other tasks that Crowley sets before him. As if the daily chores were not enough, there is a never-ending battle to avoid detection by the Samaritans who would kill Crowley in an effort to capture Chris. They exist in a twisted sort of codependency, with neither able to trust the other.
While walking the perimeter around the farm boundary one morning with Crowley, in an effort to create a false trail for the Samaritan’s dogs, they come across a tent and campfire and a HARK named Paul, who quickly kills Crowley and begrudgingly befriends Chris. Not willing to stay behind in Crowley’s farm, Chris quickly asks to go with Paul, who is headed to a place called “The Refuge” that Chris has been hearing about on an old radio he had found while during rounds.
“A Quiet Apocalypse” follows the journey of the two men as they head towards ‘The Refuge,’ discussing some of their past lives along the way, while avoiding capture and conflicts with the Samaritans. It’s an emotional and shocking story that will leave you wanting more and will leave you wide awake at night, imagining the possibilities and the atrocities that Dave Jeffrey puts before us. Five Solid Stars.
Meet Dave Jeffery
Author of "A Quiet Apocalypse"
Hi Dave! And Welcome to my Rusty Chair!
Hi Candace, first of all, can I thank you for hosting this interview on your great website. It’s appreciated very much.
You are so very welcome, Dave. It's my honor to have you here. So first question:
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
In terms of the first question, I have to say that I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller, but I didn’t know in what medium this would ultimately be. As I was growing up, reading – be that comic books or novels - was very much part of my life as there wasn’t that much money around and there was a sense of escapism from the day-to-day in seeking out fantastic worlds of fiction. It wasn’t long before I began finding stories dropping into my head and the very real need to express them. It’s been pretty much the same throughout my life, but I have tried many ways to tell stories, through comic books and illustration, song lyrics, poetry, and script-writing, but I have always felt at home when writing novels, novellas and short stories.
My career, for what it is, has been spent working and publishing through small presses as, it’s always been my experience, they have a better understanding of, and are more sensitive to, the genre as a whole. This started out with the wonderful, but now defunct, Dark Continents Publishing back in 2007-8. Currently my work is released through Demain Publishing, Crystal Lake Publishing, Crossroad Press, Grinning Skull Press and Screaming Banshee Press.
Why did you choose to write horror?
I have always found a fascination with the psychology of human nature and the very real need to experience fear in a controlled way. I have spent over 35 years working in the world of psychiatry and psychology and the nuances of the human psyche are as individual as they are multifarious. If I was to drill down as to why horror has a particular attraction for me, then it would be that it is a broad church, with many ways to approach the genre, and therefore the story being told.
Do you only write horror stories or do you cross-over into other genres?
I write across genres. My first true novel was a book called Finding Jericho, a contemporary mental health story involving a mother and her young son living with a relative with bi-polar affective disorder. The real draw is the story, and how best to tell it. Sometimes it can be told in one medium better than another.
What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
It tends to be vary depending on the project. The A Quiet Apocalypse Series and Finding Jericho came from ideas generated from my professional career in the National Health Service. The Necropolis Rising Series came from my love of the zombie genre and all things Romero and Fulci in general. Sometimes the idea just drops in and you think “Where the hell did that come from?”
Quickly followed by “Where’s my notebook?”
What was your earliest experience with horror? Movie, book, a real-life moment or nightmare?
I remember watching the movie Jason and the Argonauts with my dad as the statute of Talos comes to life. I have a real thing about statues and dolls suddenly moving and it certainly originates from watching that movie. Not helped by the Dr Who episode Spearhead from Space (1970) where the Autons made shop dummies come alive! Urgh, I can feel my skin crawling already.
What was your idea or original concept for “A Quiet Apocalypse”?
The idea came from a statement that was made to me by a hearing person when I was working with the Deaf community. They said that being deaf must be ‘scary’ and the notion of losing a sense had me thinking about the consequences of such a loss. The Deaf community do not consider their deafness a disability at all. Instead, it defines who they are and shapes their cultural identity. The conceit of a mutant strain of meningitis (MNG-U) wiping out mankind and leaving the very few survivors either deafened, Deaf or hearing came relatively early on, but it would take over ten years to consolidate the dynamics between each faction and take it to a place where I was happy with it.
How did you come up with the governing concepts, the rules and roles for the people, for the city in Cathedral?
The basis for CaTHEDRAL is what is known as “Maslow’s Law”, a bastardization of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I was familiar with the model because of my healthcare background and when constructing the society of Cathedral, it had to have grounding. Maslow’s model is based on incremental need with a goal of helping the individual attain self-actualization, becoming the best person that they can be once needs are met. Given that an apocalypse is bound to leave people wanting for so many things, it made sense to use the model, but for Cathedral to function as a societal construct, the top two tiers of Maslow’s pyramid, those pertaining to individuality, have been removed. So, in the resulting trapezium, we have governance structures that meets all basic needs but stop short of individuality, as the underpinning ethos is one of community above all else.
In light of the Covid-19 crisis currently griping our world, did you experience any real-life events that at times mentally put you into this world that you created? Any situations that you faced or heard about that made you stop and think about the similarities between the human behaviors now taking place compared to the ones that humans succumb to in the stories??
I used to think that the fall of societal order depicted in literature and movies was fanciful. But you only have to look at human behaviour in the early stages of the pandemic, where people are fighting over toilet roll and pasta, to see how quickly it all falls apart. Bear in mind that COVID-19 was an unknown illness back then, but there was enough basic epistemological data to know that,
if infected, the mortality rates across demographics were not on the scale of, say, Ebola. Imagine if COVID-19 was as lethal to everyone in the population, how long would we have until chaos descends? Watching those early news items was dumbfounding.
Do you think mankind could fall victim to this type of dystopian society, purely driven by fear and survival instincts? Does that idea scare you?
Based on my previous answer, I would have to ask: would people choose to sign up to behaviours that ordinarily they would abhor, in order to have all their needs met at a time of abject crisis and the crushing sense of hopelessness that would invariably follow? In all honesty, I don’t know how we would avoid a change in societal outlook in a changed world. You’ll always have opportunists, but there is a very real danger that their perspective on life becomes prevalent, and that would perhaps drive like-minded souls to extremes to shut such a cynical ethic down. I’m not sure how you can do this without losing aspects of what I term ‘old ethics’. As we know, moral constructs are in a constant state of flux, and quite rightly so. What happens when no-one is able to challenge convention because they fear it is keeping them safe? That is the fundamental conflict in the book CaTHEDRAL; what are the benefits and what are the risks, and what people are prepared to sacrifice - both physically and psychologically - in the name of security. On the one hand it is understandable but one the other it is a terrifying thought.
Who was your favorite character to write in these books, either one, or why?
It was definitely Sarah because her situation as a member of Cathedral is complex. She is accepting of the skewed governance of Maslow’s Law, but is not completely compliant with it. As a character she is both selfless and selfish and it is the dichotomy of these traits that make her fascinating to write. Interestingly, I have readers who suggest she is a kind and caring person trying to endure in difficult times, and others who think she is a merciless survivor who is only looking out for herself. I feel I’ve succeeded in creating an interesting character when people come away with such strong, opposing views of the same person.
Name your top 3 most admired horror authors and/or novels and explain why?
In no particular order, I’d have to say:
THE FOG by James Herbert because it was the first true horror book I ever read (at the tender age of 11 years) and at that time was probably one of the most extreme in terms of content. There are scenes in that book that have stayed with me to this day.
I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson which is still as powerful today as when it was written back in the 1950s. With a unique premise, it is more about a man trying to find answers than the will to survive. I have always seen it as a hopeful book. I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the modern equivalent which is THE ROAD by Cormack McCarthy. A great, great literary piece, no matter how much the formatting tends to offend editors!
THE DREGS TRILOGY by Chris Kelso, mainly because it is challenging in terms of content and literary style, the transgressive nature of the narrative kept me as engaged as the horrors on the page. Kelso is a true talent and the fact he isn’t bigger on the literary scene is perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of the genre. I’m hoping time will tell a better story.
Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead?
John Steinbeck due to his wonderfully sparse, yet complex, narrative in books such as Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck had a way of controlling the narrative, immersing the reader in a complex blend of entertaining stories and pervading social commentary. I simply love his work. Although personally, I prefer Grapes of Wrath to East of Eden.
What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
The supportive nature of the community - be that fellow indie writers, reviewers like your good self, and most certainly the readers.
What is your favorite Horror movie and why?
It changes between Alien, The Thing and An American Werewolf in London. Each of these films is a perfect storm of great, innovative film-making, brilliant script and high-quality acting.
What would you most like your fans to know about you?
That I’m eternally grateful for the support that they give my work. Without readers, writers are nothing. So, thank you!
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
That someone has connected with anything I have written. This is the true power of storytelling, to create something from nothing and have another person take a walk through it, enjoying it so much they want to stay for a little while longer. It’s a privileged position to be able to do that for someone.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
I’m about to go into publisher edits of The SaMARITAN, the third book in the A Quiet Apocalypse series. I have also started work on the sixth book in the Beatrice Beecham supernatural adventure series for Crossroad Press and I’m hoping to finish my sci-fi horror novel HYMNS FOR DEAD STARS for Demain Publishing. There are more contracts in the pipeline, including an awesome hush-hush project, but I’m limited on what I can say at the moment.
Dave Jeffery's Bio:
Dave Jeffery is the author of 16 novels, two collections, and numerous short stories. His Necropolis Rising series and yeti adventure Frostbite have both featured on the Amazon #1 bestseller list. His YA work features critically acclaimed Beatrice Beecham supernatural mystery series. Screenwriting credits include award winning short films Ascension and Derelict.
Finding Jericho (Demain Publishing) has featured on both the BBC Health and Independent Schools Entrance Examination Board's ‘Recommended Reading’ lists and is an amalgamation of his 35 years of NHS Mental Health Nursing experience of working with service users who have suffered stigma and social exclusion due to mental illness. Books include Tooth & Claw, A Quiet Apocalypse, Cathedral, and Bad Vision.
Jeffery is a member of the Society of Authors, British Fantasy Society (also as a regular book reviewer), and actively involved in the Horror Writers Association where he is a mentor on the HWA Mentorship Scheme. Jeffery is married with two grown up children and lives in rural Worcestershire, UK.
By Dave Jeffery
“CaTHEDRAL” is the second book in the Quiet Apocalypse series. I found this book to be a little slower paced than the first book as it dives deeper into the background of the MNG-U virus and its global impact as well as into the creation of the city of “CaTHEDRAL” itself and how it functions. While slower, it is also deep and thought-provoking as you become introduced to Sarah and her thoughts on her new existence. A newly-deaf, she is adjusting to this new way of life, as well as grieving her losses, which include her loved ones, and her music, all of which is now gone from this world. We get to know her through her memories and her inner thoughts on this life as she goes about her daily routine that is life in “CaThEDRAL”.
The governing laws within the city are based on Maslow’s Law, which focuses on the hierarchy of needs. When the needs for food, water, heat and safety are met, then the basic needs of the human condition are met, add in the need for comfort, love and desire then a flourishing populace is created. While forced relationships are less than desirable for the women of this city, the alternative of being forced or facing punishment is worse. The guise of Mate Month at least allows them some control over who they mate with each month.
Each citizen also has a job assignment and in return they are given rations, safety and security; all needs are met, for the good of the city. Sarah has accepted that this is the new way, regardless of how she truly feels inside. But then Sarah meets Paul when he is brought in as a newcomer and immediately feels something towards him, something new.
Paul must learn the ways of “CaTHEDRAL” if he is to survive there, as mistakes are not taken lightly. When a HARBINGER is brought in to face punishment, he is shocked by the treatment of the deaf woman by the citizens of “CaTHEDRAL,” who have been taught that the HARBINGERS, those that were born deaf, were the ones that caused MNG-U to wreak havoc upon the hearing. The newly-deaf are survivors of MNG-U and each one puts all of their fury, grief, and anger into their punishment of this single deaf woman. The HARKS, those survivors that can still hear, are treated almost as badly but are kept alive so they can use their hearing to help protect those that cannot. The HARKS are treated like slaves, kept harnessed and leashed at all times so they cannot escape.
Sarah chooses Paul for her next Mate Month and begins to help him learn the ways of the city and why the laws exist, while feelings she’s never had before begin to develop. “CaTHEDRAL” tells their story as they both try to navigate within the confines of the city and their own secrets.
“CaTHEDRAL” is a screaming example of what could happen when life as we know it, is gone and mankind breaks down to their most primal instincts. When humans succumb to fear, and base survival instincts, what might civilization look like?
This is not a Zombie story, this is not nuclear war fall-out, this is a very plausible, horrifying look at mankind's demise. Beautifully written, deeply thought out, imaginative down to each visceral detail and brutal in its honesty. I was fully immersed in this story, invested in the characters and cannot recommend this series enough.
Five Solid Gold Stars.
Meet Richard Chizmar!
Richard Chizmar is a fine example of aspiration realized. A wheel that started rolling and kept gaining momentum until it was unstoppable. These days, you would be hard-pressed to encounter someone in the genre, whether a fan or someone in the industry, that isn’t familiar with his name. He has won awards for his publishing efforts and received nominations and high praise for his stories. He has taken on screenwriting projects for major studios. He has collaborated with one of the best known and most admired names in horror, Stephen King himself. And his latest novel, an imaginative and chilling work of metafiction, has gotten a big stamp of approval from a great many readers.
Uncomfortably Dark recently invited Chizmar to be part of our Halloween special, and to chat with us about his new novel and upcoming projects. This is what he had to say…
Let’s begin by discussing your latest release, CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN. Can you tell us a little about this book and what inspired it?
I have long wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I always assumed it would be a big fat coming of age horror novel—in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT—but that’s not how it worked out. I just couldn’t shake the idea of a small suburban town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I was engaged and my fiancé and I decided it would be wise to save money until the wedding. Which meant not paying rent. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write a bunch of new short stories. It was a strange and wonderful time. There I was standing on the threshold of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. My writing desk overlooked the side yard where my friends and I had played when we were kids. Everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by ghosts of the past. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.
In the writing industry, you seem to do it all—writing, editing, publishing, etc. If I’m not mistaken, you started Cemetery Dance right out of college, and you’ve been writing just as long. First, how do you juggle it all? And second, do you enjoy all these things equally, or do you have a favorite?
I started working on the magazine when I was a senior at the University of Maryland. At that time, mid-1988, I’d been submitting short stories for publication for about nine months. It was a lot easier in the early years—no mortgage, no children to raise, no other real responsibilities. That, of course, changed over time. The publishing company has always been a whole lot of work—long hours spent performing a wide variety of work. Even now, for me, each day is different. And the workload still varies, as do the challenges. But that helps keep it fresh even after more than thirty years in the business. As for my favorite tasks: writing has always clocked in at #1, followed by publishing and then editing. A day spent reading and writing is a good day.
I’m a big fan of the Gwendy series. It’s one of those stories you can tell the authors were fully committed to, had a special relationship with, believed in. How did that project come about? And what was the collaborative process like?
Steve and I were emailing back and forth one afternoon and the subject of collaborations came up. Before I knew it he mentioned that he had a story that he’d been unable to finish. The next morning “Gwendy’s Button Box” showed up via email and off we went. The collaborative process was relatively simple. I picked up where he had left off, added about 10,000 words, and sent it back to Steve. He continued where I’d stopped and blasted it back to me. We had complete freedom to rewrite each other and as to where the story went. We essentially played a game of ping-pong with the manuscript until we were finished. Took us about a month.
What are your thoughts on the horror writing community now compared to how it was when you first started out?
I’m pretty much a recluse—and always have been—so I’m probably the wrong person to ask! What I can tell you is that thanks to modern technology and social media the genre is probably more close-knit than ever. I imagine that is both a positive and a negative, depending on whom you talk to. As for me, social media and emailing/texting has allowed me to become friends with and stay in regular contact with a wonderful and talented group of writers, readers, publishers, and artists. All without leaving the comfort of my own home. I’m very grateful for that.
What does your writing process entail?
When I’m working on a new book or story I tend to become fully absorbed with the story. My family and friends know when I’m deep into a new project because they have to ask me the same thing a half-dozen times in order to get an answer. I walk around for days or weeks on end with my head up in the clouds. Fortunately, I’m a pretty quick writer and eventually I reemerge into the world with a dazed look of “hey, what did I miss?” As for the nuts and bolts of my process, I can pretty much write any time of day and anywhere. Most things don’t distract me—the television on, background conversation, etc.—although I can’t write to music. I’ve tried but if the music is good, I tend to get lost in the “story of the song.”
What are some of the highlights of your career so far, some of the moments you’ll always remember?
Writing and publishing a novella called Widow’s Point with my oldest son, Billy. And then seeing the story turned into a feature film and visiting the set with my son. Nothing tops that! Close behind that are collaborating with my literary hero and good friend, Stephen King. Publishing a 25th anniversary limited edition of IT. I’ve been very blessed in my life and career.
What work of fiction has had the biggest impact on you? And why?
IT by Stephen King was published at precisely the right time for me. I had just stopped playing college lacrosse due to a serious injury, and I was lost and depressed and looking for some sort of direction. When I started reading IT, all of that went away. For two weeks, I was not limping around campus on crutches or locked inside my college apartment. Instead, I was in Derry, Maine, with the Losers Club, and everything felt like a dream. It was truly as if another door had been opened for me, and by the time I turned the last page of the novel, I had rediscovered my focus in life.
A couple of weeks later, I was writing for the college newspaper. The following semester, I was writing my own short stories and submitting them to small press magazines. The year after that, I started my own horror magazine, Cemetery Dance. I’ve never looked back, and Stephen King and IT are the primary reasons for that.
Because Halloween is right around the corner, I have to ask: What are some of your favorite horror movies and books?
Favorite movies include the original John Carpenter Halloween, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Session 9, The Descent, and about a thousand others. I’ve loved scary movies ever since I was a kid running home on Saturday afternoons to watch Creature Double Feature on television in my basement.
My top three books (at the moment) are IT by Stephen King, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon, and Summer of Night by Dan Simmons.
What do you think it is about horror that appeals to people so much?
It’s an escape from everyday life and a safe thrill. Much like getting on a rollercoaster, it frightens and titillates you, but you know you’ll be okay when the journey is over.
What’s next for Richard Chizmar?
I’m about to start work on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published in hardcover. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had a terrific time doing it. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas and maybe a film or two.
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours.
All good on my end! Maybe just send out the word that I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and really enjoy interacting with readers. Thanks!
Meet Wesley Southard
Interviewed by James Carlson
Back in October of ’21, I ran into Wesley Southard at the Horror Sideshow Market here in PA. He turned out to be a cool and interesting person. During our chat, I picked up a copy of his novel CRUEL SUMMER (Death’s Head Press, 2021). On a flight a few weeks later, I finally had the time to open its pages. I read nearly half the thing between taking off and landing. Then, a few days later, I devoured the other half on the return flight.
Southard is a great storyteller whose material is imaginative, well-constructed, and populated by fully realized characters. In fact, he managed to write into existence one of the most reprehensible characters I’ve read in a long time. This awful person and his family are on a vacation (the other two members of the family are decidedly more likable), but things go sideways fast, and the tale gets weirder and more horrific from there. CRUEL SUMMER is a fitting title, believe me.
Southard has penned several books in his career as an author. Some he cowrote with other notable names in horror. His work has been well received by reading audiences thus far. And he has gone to great lengths, quite literally, to bring his words to the masses, as he has hit the convention circuit here in the States pretty hard. To be sure, this is one dedicated and hard-working individual.
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Wesley Southard. This is what he had to say…
How did you get into writing?
For as long as I can remember, I have always been someone who needed a creative output. I wrote some when I was younger, but it was mostly me re-hashing stories from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and calling them my own. My mother was a big reader and she got me into reading at a very young age, which I am eternally grateful for now. I devoured the entire Goosebumps series and slowly started moving into adult horror like Matheson and King by late grade school, early middle school. I honestly never wanted to be a writer at all.
My dream was to be a heavy metal guitarist who spent the rest of his life on a tour bus and seeing the world. I went to the Atlanta Institute of Music for college, and after graduating in 2007 I moved back home to pursue a rock-n-roll career. Obviously, that didn’t work out. At that time, I was getting back into reading in a big way, and I was discovering the works of Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, Tim Lebbon, Edward Lee, and Richard Laymon. I instantly grew a fierce passion for fiction and decided to throw my hand into it. I’ve been writing steadily since 2007 and haven’t looked back.
Why did you choose the horror genre? And where in the genre does your style fall?
Horror was just something I was exposed to at a very young age. Between reading every Goosebumps book, renting Predator and Aliens relentlessly from Blockbuster Video, and staying up late after my parents went to sleep to watch Tales from the Crypt, Monster Vision, and USA Up All Night on Friday and Saturday nights, I was pretty much drowning in horror media all the time. I absolutely adored it.
As for my own style, I can’t really say. I’ve written extreme and splatterpunk with works like Resisting Madness and Closing Costs. I’ve dabbled with sci-fi/cosmic horror with Slaves to Gravity. I’ve dabbled with surrealist, nearly bizarre horror with One for the Road. And a lot of my work is just straight down the middle horror like Cruel Summer. I don’t think I’d want to stick with one particular sub-genre. For me, that would get stale very quickly. I want to explore everything the genre has to offer.
You’ve been remarkably busy writing stories, seeing your work published, winning awards, and doing the con circuit. Must feel like a whirlwind. How do you juggle it all?
Easy answer: I have no idea. Honestly, 2021 has been an absolute hurricane of a year. I had three books published (Cruel Summer, Where the Devil Waits, and The Final Gate), sold a half a dozen stories, won my second Splatterpunk Award, and, as I type this, I am gearing up for my fourteenth convention/book selling event of the year. Put on top of that getting ready for my wife and I’s first child, I’m utterly exhausted.
Though they can be stressful, I absolutely love traveling and doing conventions. I love to sell books by hand and meeting new and older readers. There’s a certain rush I get when making a connection with a reader that you don’t necessarily get from online interactions. Unfortunately, my traveling out of town nearly every weekend for shows is going to slow down drastically with the upcoming birth of my son. I still plan to travel, just not a whole lot of plane travel to the other side of the country. Many of my 2022 (and beyond) shows will be relegated to the east coast and anywhere I can travel to by car.
Having done a few collaborative projects, such as SLAVES TO GRAVITY, THE FINAL GATE, and WHERE THE DEVIL WAITS, what are these efforts like compared to your solo endeavors? And what does the process entail?
Each one of those projects held its own set of challenges and rewards. Somer Canon is one of my best friends in the world, but my writing and hers is very different. I knew this when I approached her with the idea of Slaves to Gravity, and we both realized about halfway through the book, when the story began to slide into the realm of cosmic horror, that we both had to learn how to write sci-fi very quickly. I’m super proud of what that book became. It took us both out of our comfort zone and the end result is something very uniquely different, more so than either of us anticipated.
Working with Mark Steensland on Where the Devil Waits was an interesting experience. He came to me out of the blue and presented me with essentially a mostly completed outline for the book. He knew my previous work and wanted me to help him complete the story and also help write the film script. It’s maybe a bit tamer of a story than I normally write, but I dig what we hashed out and completed.
As for The Final Gate, that book was spawned by author Lucas Mangum and myself because of our mutual love for the films of the late Italian horror director Lucio Fulci. We had been talking about working together for a few years, and when this idea presented itself, it was far too obvious that we had to write this together. It’s essentially a love letter to Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy and an unofficial final film of the series, in prose form, of course. Lucas and I’s writing meshed incredibly well and it helped that we were completely on the same page with the story from the get-go. I’m super proud of the final product we put out into the world for fellow fans of 1980s Italian horror cinema.
I recently started reading your novel CRUEL SUMMER, and I’m finding it to be a well-written and absorbing read. Can you tell us what inspired this one?
Cruel Summer is my most personal work I’ve done up to this point and probably still my favorite of my books. I spent a lot of time crafting this story and making sure I had my characters, relationships, and plot as true to life as possible. I think when writing a supernatural horror story, it’s easy for the characterization to become second fiddle to the outrageousness of the surreal atmosphere. To me, the best, most memorable horror is character driven. You have to care for each player in the game, and that’s what I set out to do with this novel.
Though I can’t necessarily relate to my main characters Melissa and Patrick, or her abusive boyfriend Hoyt, I have been friends with people all my life that have had to deal with domestic abuse. It’s a tricky subject to write about, and I can tell you it wasn’t terribly fun to write at times. I think the most personal aspect of this book is the setting. The novel takes place in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, which is a place my family has been vacationing in for decades. I love it there; it’s like a second home. Being a costal barrier island, it was a natural fit for the story when the supernatural element came into play. I truly love this novel, and it’s always the one I point to when someone asks for a good starting point for my work.
What are some of the highlights of your writing career to date?
Winning both of my Splatterpunk Awards was pretty cool. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to actually be there in person since KillerCon’s in-person activities were cancelled. Having readers find me at multiple convention shows to buy more books has been a really nice, having done nearly twenty shows all over the country in 2021. More than anything, it’s been really gratifying to hear from readers online that enjoyed something I did. Never hesitate to tell an author you liked their work. Writers are full of self-doubt and worry, so reaching out and letting us know you enjoyed our work can really brighten our day.
If you could see just one of your stories adapted for film, which would it be? And why?
I would love to see Cruel Summer as a film. It’s incredibly cinematic and, if pulled off by the right screenwriter and director, could be a lot of fun to see. Readers have told me numerous times they’d like to see One For The Road as a movie, but I don’t know how that would work. It’s way too weird for its own good, and there’s too many situations I don’t know how they would film it. But hey, I probably wouldn’t turn someone down if they wanted to try!
What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
My opinions on both waver on a regular basis. My first three books were self-published, and I saw little-to-no success from that. After getting my novella One For The Road accepted through Deadite Press back in 2018, I moved onto traditional publishers for the next three years. Starting in 2022, I’m reviving my imprint and will be doing a lot more self-publishing for the foreseeable future.
The whole thing depends on how you look at it. Unless you have a massive social media following and you’re a master of promotion at the beginning of your career, my personal opinion is to stay away from self-publishing for a while. Yes, you’re getting your work out there for consumption, but younger writers need the experience of working with an editor. You need that constructive criticism and that sharp editorial eye. When someone is able to point out your flaws, your repetitive mistakes, your dos and don’ts, that’s how you get better. Now that I have some form of a regular readership that will buy my work, I feel far more comfortable putting out my own books.
Who are some of your favorite authors…indie or mainstream, living or dead?
I’m a huge fan of Graham Masterton, Brian Keene, Ray Garton, Richard Matheson, Bentley Little, Edward Lee, J.F. Gonzalez, Simon Clark, and Tim Lebbon. As far as my immediate peer group, I’m a big supporter of the works of Somer Canon, Kristopher Triana, Stephen Kozeniewski, Aaron Dries, Kenzie Jennings, Wile E. Young, and countless others.
What’s next for Wesley Southard?
So many things! I just turned in my new short story collection to one of my publishers, which I’m really excited about. I’m currently working on two different novels, one being a sequel to one of my favorite author’s novels, of which his family has asked me to write since he passed away a few years back. After that I plan on writing a few new novellas and putting them together in a collection. The ideas never stop, which is definitely a good thing.
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours.
I believe that’s all. Thank you so much for having me!
Meet Eric LaRocca
We live in a time when people delight in taking to the internet to boldly express their opinions about art. In this endeavor, many tend to say things like, “I just read so-and-so’s new release, and it was just meh.” Then they proceed to explain, at length, why they made such a statement. Well, of all the ways readers regard the work of author Eric LaRocca, it’s seldom with indifference. To date, over a thousand people have weighed in on his latest novella, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. For every critical comment that borders on the negative, several claim the book to be a great offering from a talented author. This, I think, has only served to increase its controversial status and make it more popular.
Whether a person enjoys LaRocca’s brand of horror or not, that individual will undoubtedly find it hard to deny the impressive nature of his prose. Or his knack for storytelling, for that matter. Sure, he doesn’t shy away from the gross-out, but neither does he have a problem with disturbing our minds with psychological horror and dark insights about human nature. As such, this is an author who knows how to make his mark in the genre.
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric. What follows is the content of that interview in its entirety.
For those who aren’t yet familiar with you and your work, how about an introduction to Eric LaRocca?
For those who aren’t familiar with my work, I would recommend they check out my latest novella release, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. It’s become a controversial book among readers; however, I think it speaks to my sensibilities as a horror writer.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke has gotten a lot of attention in recent months. Would you mind telling us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Yes, the reaction to that book has been incredible. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is set in the early 2000s and chronicles the relationship between two young women after they meet on an LGBTQ+ chat forum. Their relationship devolves into a "Master/Slave'' dynamic, and things begin to deteriorate at a rapid pace. I often struggle to describe the plot of the novella because it's such a short piece and I would like readers to go into the book with zero expectations.
I suppose my anxiety and my fear of navigating the internet really inspired the novella. I’ve always been frightened of coming upon something online that I wasn’t supposed to see. After all, the internet is a vast and unexplored territory. Moreover, the internet and social media are virulent and toxic spaces, and I usually try to fill my time with more meaningful activities than simply just scrolling on social media feeds.
A few months after the release of your novella, you followed it up with a collection of short stories, The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales. I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but readers seem to be enjoying it. How did this project come about?
The project came about very organically. I had been writing a series of short stories over the course of two years and then Off Limits Press put out a call for submissions for short story collections. I looked over my catalog of finished, unpublished work and I decided to compile them as a collection and submit them to Samantha Kolesnik at Off Limits. The rest is history!
Authors tend to scour their minds and plunge the depths of their hearts and souls for the sake of penning authentic and affecting tales. While this can be therapeutic, it can be equally destructive. Has this been your experience? And how do you deal with it?
I agree that this can be destructive; however, writing, for me, has always been deeply therapeutic. I’ve always found myself centered and comforted when I begin writing any project. That said, there are, of course, moments when I find myself picking at a scab that I know full well I should probably leave alone to heal properly. But I know I owe it to readers to be as vulnerable and as exposed as possible.
Two-part question: What scares you in real life? And what scares you in fiction?
Abandonment frightens me in real life. I’m often fearful of being left behind or, even worse, surviving when everyone I love has perished. I’m also especially terrified of entropy and decay. I’m so uncomfortable in hospitals usually because, to me, they are fortresses of rot. I had to have my gallbladder removed in an emergency operation earlier this year and it was such a frightening experience. 0/10 I do not recommend.
I suppose what scares me most in fiction is when I know full well that the author doesn’t care about me as a reader. I admire that, of course, but it’s so unsettling to know that the author is fearlessly crafting this tale without paying mind to the reader’s wants and needs. I truly admire authors who are capable of this.
The horror community finally seems to be expanding beyond the perspective of straight, white, middle-aged men and becoming an increasingly diverse scene. Do you think the genre embraced these changes, or is there still a lot of progress to be made?
I think you’re right. I think the horror community has evolved considerably. However, I still think there’s a ton of progress to be made regarding stories from POC creators and trans creators. Moreover, there’s much work to be done about how the public receives transgressive work from marginalized communities. So many people are quick to renounce or slander a project because it doesn’t align with their myopic view of a certain community or how an entire community should be represented. I’ve seen this first-hand with Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, and it truly saddens me.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Clive Barker is one of my main literary idols. I think he’s influenced my writing the most out of all the authors I’ve read. I’m also mesmerized by the work of other literary giants such as Kathe Koja, JG Ballard, and Roald Dahl. I find myself especially inspired by contemporary voices in LGBTQ+ horror fiction like Hailey Piper, David Demchuk, and Joanna Koch.
What’s next for Eric LaRocca?
I have a book being released with Stygian Sky Media in late 2021/early 2022. The book is titled I Wait for You in the Dark and collects two novellas: Starving Ghosts in Every Thread and a new, unpublished piece titled Devilment. In June of 2022, I have a brand-new novella being released through Journalstone titled We Can Never Leave This Place. I’m especially excited about that release as that particular novella has been in development for several years and is very close to my heart.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer an aspiring writer?
Always be generating new content. Even when you’re convinced that things aren’t happening for you as a writer, always be writing no matter what. You never know when somebody is going to ask you: “What else you got?” My backlog of completed projects has saved me time and time again when I’ve been approached by editors and executives with a similar question.
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours.
I suppose I’d like to leave readers with this brief message: Kindness is key. Before you’re about to type that nasty reply or that hateful message, ask yourself if you’re being kind. You can’t ever take it back. Of course, you can delete your comment, but people often screenshot and then it exists forever.
Remember to be kind.
After all, what have you done today to deserve your eyes?
Oct. 2, 2021
Meet Brian Asman
Interviewed by James Carlson
Author Brian Asman possesses a bold literary voice. It speaks loudly and clearly to any reader who bravely cracks open one of his books. That voice will tell you stories that might make you ask yourself, “What the hell am I reading right now?” But in a good way. You see, Asman seems like he’s in it to write a quality story, but above all to entertain. So he employs plenty of humor, weirdness, action, and some well-placed expletives in his endeavors. And in doing so, he proves he has the chops to pull it off.
Those are just a few of the observations I made while reading his latest novel, Nunchuck City. A book I chose not just because of its wild synopsis but because of its tagline: “You better nun-check yourself before you wreck yourself!” That alone put Nunchuck City at the top of my reading list. Then I proceeded to devour the story in only a few days, and I enjoyed every page immensely. But don’t take my word for it; instead, check out all the favorable reviews it has received so far. And while you’re at it, read the synopsis for yourself.
Nunchuck City is only one of Asman’s books. He has two others available, as well as a number of short stories. I, for one, very much look forward to moving on to his other work, starting with the bizarro sci-fi adventure Jailbroke.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Asman. This is what he had to say.
UD: To get the ball rolling, how about an introduction? I mean, just who is this Brian Asman guy?
Asman: I’m a writer, editor, producer and actor from San Diego, CA. I’m the author of I'm Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today from Eraserhead Press and Nunchuck City and Jailbroke from Mutated Media. My short stories have appeared in anthologies like Breaking Bizarro, Welcome to the Splatter Club and Lost Films, and comics in Tales of Horrorgasm.
I’m also very much obsessed with The Greasy Strangler, dig retro arcades, love a delicious barrel-aged beer, am locked in an ongoing battle of wits with my evil genius shepherd/husky mix Zag, and became an actual Rick & Morty fan after secretly posing as one.
UD: So, I recently read your sci-fi action comedy Nunchuck City, and I absolutely loved it. Laughed out loud a few times. Rooted for Nick and Kanna, and I booed Saru and his ninja henchmen. Overall, the book had a cinematic quality, and I could see the events you described play out in my mind as if I were watching a movie. What inspired this mad tale of badass martial arts and absurd humor?
Asman: Fantastic to hear! Nunchuck City was inspired by the side-scrolling beat ‘em up games I loved as a kid, like Double Dragon and Bad Dudes. I was also a big fan of Ninja Turtles, the ninja stuff in G.I. Joe, etc. Kind of blended up a bunch of stuff I dug and splattered it back onto the page. Based on the responses I’ve gotten, I think I really nailed what I was aiming for with this book.
UD: I haven’t had the chance to read your other books, Jailbroke and I’m Not Even Supposed to be Here Today, though I plan to. Can you tell us what they’re about and what inspired you to write them?
Asman: Yeah, I really like playing around with different genres and genre mash-ups. Jailbroke started life because I really wanted to write an SF/horror hybrid. I had a bunch of weird SF ideas I was playing around with, world-building and tech stuff, but wanted to incorporate that into more of a horror build. Lots of ways to die in space, so it seemed a natural fit.
I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today is basically a take on the “million monkeys, million typewriters' ' principle—provided a world existed where demons could be summoned via incantations, that’s got to happen ACCIDENTALLY sometimes, right? The idea really came from an experience I had when I was a kid, very young, where I was just making up random words and my grandmother heard me say “fuck.” I got in a lot of trouble, even though I had no idea the “F-word” existed and was just trying to find words that rhymed with “duck.”
Still mad about that, but the experience of the disconnection between mouth sounds and intention has always stuck with me, and I wanted to explore that.
UD: Your short stories have appeared in a handful of anthologies, including a couple from Sinister Smile Press and one from Death’s Head Press, etc. What are your thoughts on short stories versus long-form fiction?
Asman: They’re harder? Short fiction teaches you to be more economical with your prose, whereas novels and novellas give you space to, well, indulge yourself a little bit. Stephen King’s the prime example, all the folksy New England Our Town stuff is fun, but there’s a version of, say, Pet Sematary that excises the origin story of the beer in Louis Creed’s basement and isn’t much poorer for it.
While I like writing short stories, long-form stuff is really more my focus these days.
UD: What made you want to be a writer?
Asman: Ever since I was a kid, I always enjoyed making up stories. I’d play with my action figures and create new names, new powers, new scenarios for them. Wrote a bunch, too. I still have one of the first stories I wrote, a total rip-off of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure about two teen girls and ghost pirates.
UD: What does your creative process entail?
Asman: For me, creativity and exercise go hand-in-hand. I typically think about books I’m writing, or my next project, while I’m taking my dog for a long walk or going on a bike ride. I often like to be somewhere public when I’m writing, the buzz of energy in the background tends to help. Too, I often will go places I’ve never been before to write, the novelty excites me and helps ideas flow!
UD: Who are some of your favorite authors, past and present?
Asman: Oh man, this is one of those questions I struggle with, because there are so many! Sticking to people I’m reading now, a few favorites include Stephen Graham Jones, Carlton Mellick, Gemma Files, Adam Cesare, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Chandler Morrison, and Autumn Christian. Also having a great time with the Splatter Western series from Death’s Head Press—Christine Morgan’s The Night Silver River Run Red is a great introduction.
UD: As I understand it, you’re also into making films. How did that come about?
Asman: Kind of a natural extension of my prose work. When I did my MFA, I took some screenwriting classes and really enjoyed it—just a different way to think about story, and I’ve found things I learn from screenwriting translate to my prose and vice versa. Stretching yourself creatively definitely makes you a better writer!
UD: What are some of your favorite movies, especially in the horror genre? It’s that time of year, after all. Personally, I watch horror movies a lot more around Halloween.
Asman: I watch almost exclusively horror (or horror-adjacent) movies year-round—there’s just so many interesting releases out there—but I do try to be a little more intentional with my Halloween selections. There are a number of standbys I have every year—Halloween ’78, WNUF Halloween Special, Trick ‘R Treat, Hell House LLC, and Tales of Halloween. Sleepy Hollow is also a seasonal favorite, and I usually try to watch a couple new Halloween-related flicks. Last year The Barn and Hack-O-Lantern were both fun discoveries, for very different reasons (one is good, the other has Mac’s dad from It’s Always Sunny).
UD: So, what’s next for Brian Asman?
A whole bunch of stuff! I’ve got two short films in post-production, a feature I co-wrote shooting next month, and a few new novellas coming in the next couple months—Man, Fuck This House is coming in October. My agent is also shopping around a few novels I’ve written, fingers crossed something happens with those!
UD: Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it here. The floor’s all yours.
Asman: Thanks for having me!
Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence.