DD: Thanks for plugging in, Shannon! You've written some wonderfully weird and original stuff including Short Bus Hero, which I loved. Tell us about your latest, Antichrist Supertaster.
SG: Hi, Dave! Thanks for having me. Yeah, you loved Short Bus Hero? That’s awesome, thank you! That book was pretty weird, I guess. The best thing about it? A lot of my horror friends told me that it made them cry. It made me so happy to hear that. How do you follow that? Well, you take a really long break, during which you sign with a big agent and do some networking with Hollywood players, and after that, you write another weird book with a catchy title. Antichrist Supertaster is the story of a kid tasked with saving his brother from a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. concentration camp and showing him that there’s still good left in the world. After a short stay with their cannibalistic grandmother in Manassas, the young travelers get picked up by a cult made up of anachronistic personalities who become convinced that the main character’s epilepsy is a clear sign that the teen is none other than the Antichrist. All hell breaks loose when one of the cult members figures out who the kids’ dad is, forcing our hero to make some tough choices. It’s kind of like The Road meets American Gods meets a They Might Be Giants song. There’s magic, despair, hope, poison candy, the resurrection and reconfiguration of the American dream, and an interpretation of the meaning of life.
DD: What does your writing space look like? Are there any rituals or habits you have to indulge before you write?
SG: My writing space…there are always a lot of coffee mugs, empty or mostly-empty soda cans, candy wrappers, and unopened mail hanging around. Sometimes, something in the clutter will give me an idea or help me solve a problem (usually not, but it’s happened). I don’t have any rituals or habits, but I do have this cheap Halloween costume hockey mask that I wear on my most productive days. It’s a little superstitious, I guess.
DD: Do dreams ever influence your work? Do you keep track of dreams?
SG: Either I am not lucky enough to dream or I just don’t remember any of my dreams. It’s probably the latter – I forget everything (how long did it take me to get back to you on these questions?). Since I’m dream-deficient, I have to rely on reality and conscious imagination.
DD: Do you write to music?
SG: Sometimes I have music on while I’m writing. It’s usually Death Cab for Cutie or Frightened Rabbit or some ‘80s band like The Smiths or The Cure. Lately, though, I’ve been pretty deeply depressed, and when I’m depressed, I don’t listen to music (not even depressing music)—everything seems too loud or distracting. I used to make playlists for writing, and I hope to go back to that practice someday, but, right now, I write in silence, or with cable news on in the background, or Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. I definitely write better with music.
DD: On the zombie front, is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in the genre?
SG: With The Walking Dead’s popularity and all the zombie books I read a few years ago, I’m kind of on a zombie hiatus. My main character in Antichrist Supertaster does bring a few beings back to life, with not-so-good results, so I’m not totally dissing zombie culture, but I’m not writing typical zombie stuff. My favorite zombie story is Scott Browne’s Breathers – it’s funny, but it’s sad, too. I’d say I like a little comedy and melancholy with my zombies, but it has to be done well. It’s a difficult thing to pull off because most of the comedy I’ve seen mixed into the horror genre just doesn’t work for me – it’s cheesy and cliché, and I don’t like that. If I had to read a zombie book, I guess I’d like to see more dry wit, and a newly minted zombie’s wonder at “WTF am I, what’s going on, I’m fucking starving—I eat what now? How in the hell am I going to get a brain?!” Maybe like an Interview With the Vampire or The Vampire Lestat, only with zombies. Maybe I’ll write that (there’s probably a book like that already out there that I don’t know about—I haven’t been keeping up with the zombies as much as I should).
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 10:01 AM
Ben is the editor of Tales from the Lake Volume 4, coming October 27th from Crystal Lake Publishing. The anthology includes my story "Snowmen."
DD: Thanks for plugging in, Ben! First, tell us about the upcoming TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 4, a Crystal Lake Publishing anthology you edited. What’s the history of this series, and where are you taking it with this latest entry?
BE: Thanks for having me! It’s my pleasure. Tales from the Lake has always been a play on words—Crystal Lake/From the Lake. Since Volume: 1, we’ve published writers we’ve already worked with as well as others we would like to work with in the in future. There was always a subtle theme of urban myths and legends from Volume: 1 to Volume: 3. I wanted to do something different with Volume: 4. I wanted to raise the bar quality-wise, as well as take it in a new direction in terms of theme. And that theme is this: Unique, emotional, and powerful stories that leave a lasting impact on the reader. I want the readers to feel as if they’ve been to Hell and back when they’re done reading. Some stories have a more literary slant, others have a more fantastical slant. Some will bring tears to your eyes, others will crank your imagination up. But all pluck at the reader’s heart strings. Once the blurbs and feedback came in, I was over the moon! I’m very happy to say I accomplished what I set out to do. The contributors made my job easy.
DD: As the editor of a diverse horror anthology, how do you decide on the story order?
BE: The CEO and Founder of Crystal Lake Publishing Joe Mynhardt and I worked on that. All of the stories are powerful and diverse, so we didn’t have that problem. You could put them in any order, really, but we chose the final order to reflect said diversity. There’s something in here for everyone.
DD: You’re also an author. Tell us about your most recent projects.
BE: Thanks for asking! You can find my horror novella Cracked Sky, which was published by the Bram Stoker Award winning press Omnium Gatherum, on Amazon.com or their website: http://www.omniumgatherumbooks.com/ I’m very happy to say that book opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve had short horror fiction published in Shroud Magazine, The Ashen Eye, Tales from the Lake Volume: 2, and my short literary story Stardust appears in the anthology Between the Lines, edited by Bram Stoker Award Winning editor Michael Knost, and was published by Seventh Star Press. I’m finishing up my latest book, and that will be published by Crystal Lake Publishing in, 2019. I’ve just started another one that will hopefully be published before, 2019. Ha!
DD: Do dreams influence your writing at all? Do you keep track of dreams?
BE: I think I’m the only horror writer/author that doesn’t remember their dreams. I feel left out. Ha! It’s like I’m a radio station; I don’t know where these concepts come from. They’re like movie trailers in my head.
DD: Are you a zombie fan and, if so, what do you think the genre needs more (or less) of?
BE: If the plot/premise and voice is unique and powerful, yes! I fell back in love with horror that has zombies in it by reading your Empire series of novels. They were game-changers. So, much love and respect to you for doing that! Same goes for Jonathan Maberry’s work. What does it need more of? Uniqueness. Evolve the sub-genre. Do something no one else has done yet. What would I like to see less of in that sub-genre? “Hey! Zombies are attacking us!” I’d rather have a root canal without Novocain than read those stories. I sincerely mean that. Trends come and go. But if it’s unique, then it will stand the test of time and out-live the trend.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 5:19 AM
I haven't been able to spend much time online lately, just checking in here & there, and have only this week learned of GAR's passing. George Romero gave us a modern monster archetype that stands tall alongside age-old classics like the vampire and werewolf. His walking dead and the world they rule speak that deeply to us on any number of themes. His ghoul will perhaps be the last member added to the all-time horror pantheon, and its creator is equally deserving of our veneration.
We'll always stay scared. Thanks George.
We'll always stay scared. Thanks George.
Posted by Dave Dunwoody at 8:20 AM