Hello folks, I am honoured today to have James Newman over for a chat. I won a copy James’s novella The Church of Dead Languages, this was the first time I ever won a competition. James is a great author, with many fine works under his belt.
GNOH – Hi James, it’s been a long time since we last chatted. What’s been happening in your neck of the woods?
It has been a while! Things are good, man. Just trying to stay busy, ya know?
GNOH – As a fellow James, is it James, Jimmy, Jim, Jimbo, or Jamie?
Definitely just “James”. When I was a kid, folks called me Jamie, and that’s what we call my 11-year-old now. But I can’t stand it when somebody calls me any derivation of “Jim.” Especially “Jimbo” — that makes me homicidal.
No offense to yourself or any other fine Jims out there, of course. I just don’t think it fits me personally. 🙂
GNOH – So what is the draw of horror?
I’ve loved this stuff even before I knew how to read. I don’t know why, although in past interviews I’ve blamed it all on my Dad. He took me to see THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN and HALLOWEEN at the drive-in when I was barely tall enough to see over the backseat. That’s probably what started it all.
This stuff is just so COOL. How’s that? I wish I had a better answer for you!
GNOH – Who do you like to read?
Some of my favorite writers, folks who have influenced me the most, include Joe Lansdale, Ed Gorman, Robert McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Garton, Bentley Little, and the early work of King and Koontz. I adore Nancy Collins’s short fiction. Gillian Flynn is a recent fave — she’s just phenomenal. In addition to those guys (and girls), I enjoy reading graphic novels now and then, mostly horror stuff but I’m also a huge Batman nerd.
GNOH – I first came across your work when I won a competition; the prizes included your novella with Jason Brannon, The Church of Dead Languages. I was instantly hooked on your writing. How did this collaboration come about?
Jason and I have been pals for years, but before that I was a huge fan of his work. We had talked about working on something together, and . . . I believe I had the title and the basic skeleton of the idea? Jason might say I’ve got that all wrong, and if so he could be on to something ’cause I have a terrible memory.
Anyway . . . that project just came together so smoothly. Our styles really complement one another, I believe, meshing seamlessly. So when Keith Minnion invited me to submit something for his line of White Noise Press chapbooks I knew this story would be perfect for it. I asked Jason to join me for the ride, and there you have it.
JB’s a hell of a writer, one of the genre’s most underrated, in my opinion. I’d love to work with him again someday.
GNOH – Have you ever considered going back and turning it into a full-blown novel?
Never thought about that. Do you think it could work?
GNOH – I think the story would certainly work as an expanded piece, even though it is a fantastic story in itself.
GNOH – Your debut novel has been compared to King’s It, and Simmons’s Summer of Night. Do you think it’s a rite of passage for a horror author to do this sort of story?
Not necessarily. I think it’s very interesting, though, that — you’re right — there do seem to be a lot of horror authors who have done the coming-of-age thing. And many horror fans dig that kind of story. I know I do, even when there’s no “horror” element, per se.
I think this is because childhood in itself can be scary. The trials and tribulations of growing up are perfect fodder for a horror story. The world around a kid is fascinating, but at the same time so massive and intimidating. Adults aren’t always good people, even though we’re taught from a very young age to respect them. Everyone can relate to a good coming-of-age story, I believe. Throw in a monster (or, in the case of my own Midnight Rain, an authority figure who is a human monster), even better.
GNOH – How much of the novel was you exorcising demons?
With the exception of growing up in the South, dealing with some racism, things like that, there’s nothing autobiographical about Midnight Rain. Unlike the narrator’s mom, my mother is about as far as you can get from an alcoholic without being a complete teetotaller, and my Dad did serve during VietNam but thankfully he’s alive and well. Oh, yeah . . . and I’ve never witnessed my hometown’s sheriff committing a murder.
GNOH – The Wicked was a great read. Did you always intended to write, what felt like to me anyway, a homage to the classic monster novels of the ‘80’s?
Absolutely. It’s cool to hear that you “got it”. The Wicked was my not-quite-tongue-in-cheek nod to all of those “evil in a small town” novels of the 80s. You know, the ones with the garish, foil-stamped covers and the plots that were much more about people getting swallowed up by demons than anything trying to remotely resemble “art”. Fun stuff.
GNOH – Your novella The Forum is about a forum for serial killers. What was the inspiration for this, and have you had any bad experiences of trolls on the net?
The idea just hit me one day: “Wouldn’t it be cool to write a story about an online message-board for serial killers? What if, instead of talking about comic books or role-playing games, instead of arguing back and forth about movies or music . . . there was a place in cyberspace where folks with more sinister hobbies could gather to swap tips n’ tricks related to their evil trade?”
You can find just about everything else on the Internet, right? Who’s to say something like this isn’t lurking out there too? This was a fun story that just about wrote itself in a single sitting.
And no, I’ve never had any bad experiences with trolls. None that I can recall, anyway.
GNOH – What’s your advice to other authors in dealing with trolls?
Ignore them. They’re just losers wanting attention. Like a bad rash, if you refrain from scratching it eventually it’ll just go away.
GNOH – People are Strange is one hell of collection. How did you decide on the contents? Did you write them specifically for the collection or did you cherry-pick from previously written stories?
All of the stories in People Are Strange are old faves of mine, or stories that my readers have mentioned cited were my most memorable through the years. I didn’t consciously impose the “only stories with no supernatural element” stipulation from the beginning, believe it or not . . . it was only after I had compiled about three-quarters of the collection when I realized they all shared that similiar “theme”. Hence the title.
GNOH – In Animosity, a horror author finds himself at the centre of a controversy when his neighbours let their emotions get the better of them. Have you ever been the victim of the misconceptions most folk have of the genre?
Beyond the weird looks I suspect all horror writers get from the “normal people” when they answer the question “What kind of stuff do you write?”, I can’t say that I’ve ever had any uncomfortable experiences with it. A good buddy of mine has — Animosity was dedicated to him with this in mind, as a matter of fact — but that is not my story to tell.
GNOH – You describe Animosity as “your love letter to the genre”. What do you love about the genre, and what do you hate about the genre?
I love the vast arena in which I’m able to work. I love the fact that there are so many different faces of horror. Those of us who create within this genre can do so with monsters, or not. We can do so with ghosts, or not. Serial killers, possessed children, evil corporations, etc. etc. etc. We don’t even have to pigeonhole ourselves within the genre at all if we choose not to! Ray Garton and I were recently talking about this, how more and more these days we find ourselves writing fiction that’s not even flat-out HORROR, per se, work that doesn’t examine how people DIE but how they LIVE (Mr. Garton’s words, which I just loved). At the same time, I do think anything we write is gonna have that touch of darkness to it. And horror fans will dig it — whether it’s mystery, thriller, noir, no matter the word on the spine — even if it ain’t always about some snarling monster ravaging big-breasted blondes. To me, the things PEOPLE are capable of is scarier than any of that. Real people. People we know. ‘Cause readers can relate; we witness the things our fellow humans do to each other every day. My own Midnight Rain is a great example, I think — although I thought of myself as a “horror writer” at the time I wrote that book, my debut wasn’t a horror story at all. But horror fans loved it. And that’s so cool, isn’t it?
As for what I hate about the horror genre? Oh, man . . . I’m usually the last fella you’ll see climbing up on a soapbox. But you’ve given me the perfect opportunity to rant on something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, something that really irks me . . . .
I’m disturbed by the fact that so few people actually READ. We have so many great websites out there devoted to horror (like your own, Jim) . . . so many forums dedicated to our beloved genre . . . there are countless horror conventions every year, where fans can meet and mingle . . . yet, sadly, it appears as if there is only a very small percentage of those people who are interested in READING. It’s all about the movies. Nobody want to frequent these things so we can discuss the latest kick-ass release by Graham Masterton, Ray Garton, or F. Paul Wilson. Who cares what Cemetery Dance has on tap this month, or what’s hot right now at the Horror Mall. Everybody wants to rave about SAW 17 or the return of Ghostface or how this latest 3D slasher remake’s gonna be the sickest yet, yo, with guts a-flying and blood spattering across the screen!!!!!!!!!!1!
It’s great that there are so many of us, don’t get me wrong. And I love movies as much as the next guy. But more often than not I feel that the junk some “fans” celebrate just gives our genre a bad name.
All I’m trying to say is, there’s more to the genre than film. Whatever happened to wanting to read a good book? These days, people seem PROUD that they don’t read, like there’s something wrong with those of us who do (go to any random horror forum right now, click on the “What Are You Currently Reading?” thread, and I’d bet my next advance that you’ll find at least one person who thinks he’s the first comedic genius to ever post “THIS THREAD” — har-har!). It’s depressing, it really is. If only folks would take the time to read, they’d realize there’s so much more to horror than yet another shitty movie made by suits who couldn’t care less about the fans. And, who knows . . . in the process, by cracking open a good book, they might even learn a little something.
OK, stepping down off the soapbox now.
GNOH – Your debut novel Midnight Rain has just been released as an E-book. Have you made any changes to the original manuscript?
Nope. I decided to put this one out there as is, warts and all. I’m looking forward to getting it in front of new readers who missed it the first time around. I’m still very proud of that novel, and I’m humbled by the fact that those who did read it back in the day still talk about it fondly.
GNOH – Are there any plans to release the rest of your back catalogue as E-books?
Yes, there are definitely more in the works. The aforementioned People Are Strange should see release in this format soon. I’m seeing a pretty big demand for my other titles too, so I’m going over my options as we speak.
GNOH – Can you tell us about your novella Revenge Flick!?
Revenge Flick! is a weird little story I wrote for Sideshow Press. It’s somewhere in between a spoof/tribute to all things Quentin Tarantino. It’s about a struggling actor who thinks he’s finally found his big break when he lands a small role in Slay Ray, the latest film by hotshot director “Terry Quintana”. Things go bad for our hero, however, when he loses his manhood during a freak accident while the camera’s rolling, and before long he’s on the road to Tinseltown with a shotgun in his lap, his dead brother in the passenger seat, and vengeance on the brain . . . .
Revenge Flick! is told in a non-linear style similar to Tarantino’s films, but not only does it jump around chronologically, the story is told in a variety of different “formats” as well — everything from prose to screenplay to excerpts from a fictional biography about the doomed director. I think folks will get a kick out of it, especially readers who dig Tarantino’s work as much as I do.
GNOH – What kind of author would you describe yourself as?
I’d like to be known as a damn fine storyteller. That’d be good enough for me.
GNOH – When writing, do you have any rituals that you must go through?
Not really. I don’t smoke anymore, so these days it’s just ass-in-chair. Simple as that.
GNOH – What would you suggest as the best starting point to your work?
At one time I would have answered that question with Midnight Rain, without hesitation. But these days I’d probably say Animosity. I think, at its heart, Animosity says a lot about what it means to be a horror fan, and how the “normal” people view those of us who dig this stuff. It’s my most “personal” story to date, and I think it’ll really hit home for my fellow horror fans too. So . . . let’s do this . . . I’d recommend Animosity to the die-hard horror freaks out there, but Midnight Rain to readers who prefer something “quieter”, not so “mean.”
GNOH – What does the future hold for you?
I just completed a novella called Olden. I’ll be announcing a publisher for that very soon. Olden is sort of an apocalyptic piece but on a much smaller scale. It’s my twist on the zombie craze without having a single zombie in sight (personally, I’m sick of ’em).
I’m also finishing up my latest novel, Ugly As Sin. I’m having a blast with this, can’t wait to hear what folks think about it. Ugly As Sin isn’t quite horror, but it is a very dark story I’m calling “Southern noir”. It’s the story of a pro wrestler (Nick “The Widowmaker” Bullman) whose face is horribly disfigured after he’s kidnapped and tortured by two psychotic fans who think his “heel” character is real . . . and that’s just the first 5 pages!
I’m enjoying playing in this “world” so much I’m thinking about turning Nick Bullman into a recurring character in future novels. Sorta like Lansdale’s Hap n’ Leonard series. We’ll see.
GNOH – James, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, it’s been great fun.
Thanks for having me, Jim. You know I’m a big fan of your blog, so it was an honor to be invited to do this. Keep up the good work, man!
Folks, I highly recommended you get on the Newman bandwagon. He is an author that richly deserves all of the praise thrown at him.
You can purchase his books