Welcome Coffin Hoppers to my blog page. I am Brent Abell and I welcome you to the home for my fiction and other goodness. This is a busy time for me, so rather you are a new reader or a regular reader, hang on tight we have a lot to cover!
1. News time! In the past week I had two flash stories accepted to Pill Hill Press’s “Daily Flash: 366 Days of Flash Fiction” anthology. The first story is a very personal tale called “The Conversation” and the second is a small glimpse into a much larger work I’m messing around with called “On the Wings of Darkness (A View From the Dark Frontier)”. “On the Wings of Darkness” was me toying with a concept and seeing what I could do with it. More info to come as I get it.
2. The prize pack for the Coffin Hop is set. Every evening starting Monday, I will post an author’s name. Your job is to try to figure out my favorite book by that author and post it in the comment section. Each day I will choose a winner and the daily winners will be in the final drawing for the prize pack. The prize pack will include: a signed copy of Post Mortem Press’s “New Dawn Fades” anthology featuring my story “Spot Shoot”, a very nice Halloween story from Peter Straub titled “Pork Pie Hat”, and the best part of the pack is a Delirium hardcover of Jeff Strand’s “Fangboy”. I would like to thank Jeff for that last contribution!
3. Now it is time for author Jeff Strand to enter the blog as tonight’s special guest!
Jeff’s latest novel “Fangboy” is really a fun trip around life through the eyes of Nathan Pepper. He looks just like any other normal boy…until he smiles and reveals his mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. While the reader is taken on a ride detailing his life in the orphanage, the circus, and an attempt to live in a normal household; you become a cheerleader for Nathan. I found myself really emotionally invested in him and rooted for him more than I do with most other books. The book was released earlier this year from Delirium Books and you can still pick up the hardcover or a nifty trade paperback here –https://www.darkfuse.com/jeff-strand/.
Now to the questions:
1. Your work ranges from the serious (Pressure), to the absurd (the Andrew Mayhem series), to the heartbreaking (Dweller). Each of your books has moments of humor throughout them that add a nice change of pace. What do you see as the role humor can play in the horror genre?
Humor can play lots of roles, everything from creating empathy for a character because he or she makes us laugh, to giving the reader a much-needed break in the tension, to being the whole point of the story. I would cut-and-paste my chapter on comedy in horror from WRITERS WORKSHOP OF HORROR here, but that would be kind of obnoxious. I’d say that about half of my books are comedies first, horror novels second, and the other half are the reverse, and in my case that simply comes from me being a comedy writer who loves the horror genre.
2. In an earlier blog, I said Dweller was one of the best books I’ve read since the start of 2010. What was the inspiration for the novel and for the creature?
Dweller was inspired by sitting down and thinking “Okay, what’s my next book going to be about, dammit?” and jotting down random vague ideas. Werewolves? A mummy? The blob? I decided that I wanted to do a “bullied kid becomes friends with a carnivorous monster” story, but the hook was that the novel covered their entire lives, from childhood to old age, which as far as I knew had not been done before. I pitched it to my editor, who asked if maybe we could make it cover five years instead of sixty, but for me the whole allure of the tale was the epic timeframe. The whole novel was outlined in advance, so there was no danger of saying “Oh no! They’re in their mid-thirties and I’ve run out of ideas!”
I originally envisioned it as a reptilian creature that lived in a well. However, the well idea seemed too limiting for a story that covered decades, and I decided that a reptilian monster would make it too difficult to achieve the level of emotion I wanted in the novel, so I made Owen into a cave-dwelling Bigfoot-like creature. Readers seem to really love Owen, because despite the teeth and claws and hunger for human flesh, he’s just so huggable!
3. I’m going to throw this out there now…who would win in a fight between the ants in Mandibles and some crab-like beasts with scorpion tails? I know a ton of people who would love to see Mandibles vs. Clickers.
You do not. You know a FEW people. I do not write every book with the hope that it could be a breakthrough New York Times bestseller (see: Benjamin’s Parasite) but Clickers Vs. Mandibles is taking the “niche audience” concept too far. Clickers Vs. Zombies, which JF Gonzalez just finished writing with Brian Keene…that makes sense. I’ll totally buy that when it comes out. But I’m not even planning to write Mandibles II, as awesome as that would be.
I think the fight would be a draw. The ants would be on the verge of defeating the crabs, but then the dam would break and they’d all be washed away.
4. Did you get out the Leisure meltdown with your soul intact?
Yep, my soul is totally fine. I did have my grievances and I did jump ship, which is why there was no mass market edition of WOLF HUNT, but I felt like the anti-Leisure sentiment got a bit out of hand. There were a lot of legitimate problems that needed to be made public, but there was also a lot of self-serving behavior on the part of the authors, and less of a “Let’s make things right!” attitude than a “DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!!” one.
5. When writing, what rituals does Jeff Strand have to go through to call the muse or does he just sit and type?
He just sits and types. I mean, I just sit and type. Sometimes in my home office, sometimes in the living room on the recliner, and sometimes out on the screened-in back porch. There aren’t any rituals, and also not much in the way of regular writing hours. If I get stuck, I’ll go for a walk and brainstorm ways to solve the problem, but there are no wacky traditions or “My muse speaketh not to me on this day, and so I shan’t write.”
6. The Andrew Mayhem series has a new addition coming, what can you tell us about Andrew’s newest misadventure?
The fourth novel is called LOST HOMICIDAL MANIAC (ANSWERS TO “SHIRLEY”). I can tell you that Andrew spends almost the entire book handcuffed to a female serial killer, and that an unresolved menace from CASKET FOR SALE (ONLY USED ONCE) plays a major role. It’ll be out before the clock strikes 2012, along with new e-book versions of the first three novels in the series. If you liked the first book, and the second book, and the third book, you will enjoy the fourth. If you thought the first one sucked, the second one was worse, and the third was the worst yet, this book will not cause you to change your world view.
7. As a beginning author, what advice can you give us to help us wade through all the BS that comes with the biz?
This is a tricky one to answer, because in this new publishing world it’s possible to avoid a lot of the BS. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to avoid things like “learning how to write.” If you choose to go the traditional publishing route, my best advice is “Always be working on something.” The endless wait to hear back from an agent on your novel BLOOD MONKEY OF DOOM CREVICE is much easier if your brain is occupied with writing SPLATTER ELEMENTARY. And just remember that every fan letter removes one (1) month of accumulated BS.
8. I own a pug who seems hell-bent on world domination. Do you have a pet and what type of personality does it have? If you don’t have a pet, what would you like for one?
Irony! I have a shirt that has a world-dominating pug with the slogan “Obey The Pug.” It was a birthday gift from romance author Michele Bardsley several years ago. I wear it all the time. As much as I love pugs and their snorty antics, I own no pug and instead have two cats, Pandora and Mayhem. Pandora is not the bravest cat ever to walk the earth, and she’s kind of cranky sometimes, but she’s very snuggly. Mayhem would love to be Adventure Cat, but she’s deaf and is thus forced to be an Indoor Cat, though she does slay lizards that are foolhardy enough to venture onto our back porch.
9. What upcoming projects, not bound by secrecy, can you share with the crowd?
FAINT OF HEART is a suspense novella coming out from Sideshow Press in February 2012. Next June will bring my first Young Adult novel, a horror/comedy (mostly comedy) called A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO, published by Sourcebooks. And, of course, LOST HOMICIDAL MANIAC (ANSWERS TO “SHIRLEY”). I have a couple of other projects that aren’t bound by secrecy, but they’re too early to discuss because they might completely change, and then I have people saying “Dude! What happened to that book SEWN you announced?” and I have to say “I changed my mind!”
10. Pimp yourself! Where can the good people find out more about you and your work? Because if they haven’t found you yet, they need to.
They should stroll on over to http://www.jeffstrand.com. Or they can just search for my name at their favorite online retailer and go on a wild buying spree.
I would like to thank Jeff for taking some questions for the readers and I want to thank all of you for stopping by!