AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVE VERNON

I’m proud to announce that one of my favourite authors has popped in for a chat.  So pull up a chair, and  settle down for a conversation with the master story teller Mr Steve Vernon 

GNOH – Hi Steve, it’s been a while since welast chatted, how are things with you?



Hi,Ginger Nuts. I’m doing fine, although the sky is bleeding glaciers and penguinpoop this morning. We are talking deep freeze cold, out there. The pumpkins areshivering and the polar bears are talking long johns. It’s October here andNova Scotia – and she’s come to the party dressed up as Miss Mid-January.
GNOH – It always seemed inevitable that youwould turn to writing, what with growing up listening to the stories of yourGrandfather, the railway workers, and your mother.   Was there ever a time where you wanted to dosomething else?


Well, Iseem to remember wanting to be a superhero for a while. I think I figured thata set of spandex tights and a six-pack of pectorial implants was going to getme more girls – but then I got a little older and lit on the idea of growing upto become a writer. Since I was about eleven years old or so I had figured outthat the thing I was best at was putting one word after another in a mildlyentertaining fashion.


GNOH – Other than your grandfather and therailway workers, who would you say has been the biggest influence on yourwriting?


My cat.No one else has such a deep intense understanding of my guru-like wisdom.
Eitherthat, or the bank I deal with. There is nothing more creatively inspiring thanwatching a bank account dwindle down to pennies and memories. I mean, you canforget about writers block when the mortgage comes due.


GNOH – You have had a very varied workhistory, in your time of travelling across Canada, you’ve certainly paid yourdues.  Do you think that an author needsto live a life before they can fully tap the potential of their writing skills?


The onething that I got out of my lifetime of trying to earn enough money to keep mein ink, paper and postage stamps is a keen appreciation for the entire spectrumof existence. Meeting and working with as many people in as many walks of lifeas I have gives me a really hard-won sense of what makes people tick. I mean myresume would include burger flipper, house painter, garden digger and raker ofleaves. I have worked as a roustabout, a carnie, a pusher of concert tickets, ahardware clerk, a pusher of cotton bales, an environmental criminal, a cleanerof oil tankers, a tree planter, a fiddlehead picker and a sidewalk palm reader.I’ve served ice cream, worked in libraries, pushed billions of boards, andworked as a professional snow shoveller. Wave a dollar in the air and I will mostlikely jump for it.
Thepoint is – I have had to do a lot of different things to keep body and soul onspeaking terms. And it turns out that along the way I met an awful lot ofpeople doing the very same thing. I have talked to the homeless and the insaneand the desperate masses indulging in the time-old art of just hanging on.
Itteaches you a bit about people and endurance.


GNOH – And what exactly is fiddlehead picker?


Afiddlehead is a fine succulent baby fern. It is called a fiddlehead because of theway it curls itself into such a fine tight spiralling knot. That’s when youpick it = when it is young and tasty – before it uncurls itself and grows upinto a gnarly old bitter fern.
I eatfiddleheads every year here in Nova Scotia – but it wasn’t until I hadhitchhiked to British Columbia in my middle years to go work in the woods ofthe Northern Rockies. I had just hit Prince George and had pitched my tent in acommunal campground when some guy in a pickup truck pulled up and asked ifanyone in the campground knew fiddleheads. I stuck my arm up and said “Yeah, Iknow fiddleheads. I grew up picking them in the old country. Lived and breathedfiddleheads. Nothing I like better than getting up in the morning and pickingme some fiddleheads – so green and tasty and succulent and…
Anyway,he told me to get on into the truck and I hoped on board and spent a few daysin the back of nowhere, BC – picking bags and bags of fiddleheads. By thesecond morning I had already lined up a sideline of cutting wood and buildingfires. I would get out of my tent and split enough kindling to lay one guy’sfire. He’d get up and cook me breakfast while I went to the next tent and builtanother fire for the guy who kept me in coffee.
I spentthe last night of my fiddlehead experience riding back to Prince George in theback of half ton, in pitch total blackness with a work crew of freshlyimmigrated Nigerians. They barely spoke English but we traded work songs backand forth for three hours. They’d sing out a native work chant – like somethingout of an old safari/tarzan movie and then the leader of the crew would say“SING!” to me in a big booming bottom-of-the-oil-barrel kind of voice and I’dsing back all of the Willy Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, GordonLightfoot and Murray Mclauchlan that I knew. It was a hell of a ride.


GNOH –Are you at liberty to tell us aboutbeing an environmental criminal?


I’msworn to secrecy on that point.


GNOH – You describe yourself as Nova Scotia’shardest working horror writer, are there many 
of you guys in Novia Scotia?


Thereare a couple of horror writers here in the maritimes – but damn few that I knowof. We don’t get much in the way of exposure or anything even close to success.But hell, let’s face it – even if Stephen King himself decided to pull out ofMaine and move on up here I’d still call myself that because it sounds so damncool.


GNOH – But it’s not just writing stories thatyou have a passion for, you also love telling them, 
which gives you the mostpleasure, writing the stories, or performing them to a captive audience?


I don’tknow if “captive” is the right word for it. Makes me sound like I’ve got a packof hog-tied cheerleaders locked up in my basement. Let’s just say I love to tryand captivate my audience – holding them with nothing more than the force of mywords and personality.
It’sfunny, but I am really a fairly close-mouthed dude in public. I am not aconversationalist at heart and I am damn near a wallflower at most parties. Butput me up on stage with a microphone or plunk me down in front of a campfireand you’re going to hear yourself a story and go home grinning.


GNOH – I always imagine a cold winters nightand big campfire whenever I read one of your tales.  It’s a feeling a lot of people seem to haveabout your writing.  How do you feelabout this description?


Let’sface it. At the heart of things we are just alone in the darkness, huddledaround a hopeful campfire, praying for a few good words and a reason for being.That’s what being human is all about, isn’t it? Hanging onto something in thedarkness, reaching out for that next line, trying hard to pull yourself towardsthe light.
Now goon and drink this Kool-aid, why don’t you???
GNOH – A lot of your work is aimed atchildren, are kids stories more fun to write than adult ones?


You’remistaking me for a sniper. I fire a shotgun and I intend to hit as many readersas possible. A well written book for children is a pleasure for adults to readas well – so I am aiming for all age groups – no matter what particularbookshelf the bookstore insists on stacking my books on.
I willsay this, though.
Writingfor kids is awfully hard work. Kids have zero tolerance for beating around thebush. If a kid picks up a book he wants to go somewhere with it – fast. You cannotfart around with children’s writing.

GNOH – You have a spotters guide to seamonsters, in Maritime Monsters, it’srather hard to get hold of a copy in the UK, is there ever going to be anotherversion of this available?  And moreimportantly will there be a sequel, and if there is will you include the Landshark in it?   (I was always on the vergeof making my son believe in Land Sharks, and this would help tip the balance inmy favour)



Well, Iwrote it for a Nova Scotia publisher, (Nimbus), so it is very unlikely that Iwill ever try and follow it up. I do have another children’s picture book withmonsters and such in the back of my mind but it would be something a littledifferent than Maritime Monsters.


GNOH – I first encountered your writing with Hard Roads, which feels like a lifetimeago.  How do you feel the stories in thisbook stand up to your most up to date work?


Well,it depends on which book you’re talking about.
At thetime of this interview I have just released THE LUNENBURG WEREWOLF – which is afollow-up collection to my first ghost story collection HAUNTED HARBOURS. Thiscollection – like all of my previous regional collections – is fat and full ofwonderful stories of the supernatural that are palatable for folks of all ages.The stories in this collection are all rooted in Nova Scotia folklore – yarnsand tales that have been handed down over the last couple of centuries. Iguarantee some pure and wonderful storytelling – but if you’re looking forguts-and-gumbo you might want to look elsewhere.
On theother hand – my e-books are all in the horror vein. Meaning they are darker andnastier and are definitely not for the easily offended. My latest two e-booksare ROADSIDE GHOSTS and THE WEIRD ONES.
ROADSIDEGHOSTS is a collection of eight tales – several of them unpublished – includingmy highly praised chain gang novelette “The Forever Long Road of Olan Walker” –which originally appeared in Cemetery Dance’s wonderful collection SHIVERS V.
As forTHE WEIRD ONES – this book is just what it’s title says. These are some of theweirdest yarns I have ever written. Dark and wild and mindbending tales thatwill leave you wondering just what the heck I was smoking while I was writingsome of these yarns. This one is DEFINITELY not for the easily offended orthose who are gentle of mind and spirit.

GNOH – Out of all your published works whichis your personal favourite?



Withouta doubt I would have to say my personal favourite is DEVIL TREE – a full lengthhorror-historical that is only available as an e-book through Crossroad Press.It is one of the deepest and purest old school horror novels that I have everwritten and I am very proud of it and hope that everyone who reads thisinterview goes out and downloads about twenty or thirty copies to theirKindle/Nook/ipad e-reading device.


GNOH – It seems that you are entering a verybusy time with regards to publishing, you have e-book out, a new novel Tatterdemon from Blasphemous Books, and Do Overs and Detours from Dark RegionsPress.  How do you keep yourselfmotivated during these busy times?


I thinkI mentioned that mortgage that keeps calling to me every month???


GNOH – Your e-books have found a home withDavid Wilson at Crossroads Press.  You’veknown David for a while haven’t you?


Davidwas actually the first person to ever review my work – way back in the days ofJanet Fox’s SCAVENGER’S NEWSLETTER when he reviewed a chapbook of mine entitled“A Fine Sacrifice”. Then, in Cemetery Dance he went on to review my weirdwestern cult classic LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY – A TALE OF WILD WEST TERROR ANDREANIMATED BUFFALO. We’ve also appeared together in quite a few anthologies andmagazines along the way. Dave’s a good man and I really enjoy working with him.
GNOH – What made you decide to go with Davidas the publisher of your e-books?


Actually,the whole e-book venture has been a bit of an experiment for me. It seemed likea great way to get some of my older out-of-print work out there – as well assome new work I was working on. E-books are definitely part of the new futurefor writing – and I definitely wanted to get into the game and try it out.Crossroad seemed to be the one company out there making a real effort to roarinto the new age of digital publishing.
Mindyou, I am not one of those doom and gloom Cassandra-clones who love sit andbemoan the “death of the book”. A book is more than just pages and paper andthe covers, front and back.


GNOH – David has built up quite a stable ofwell respected authors it must be a good feeling to 
be associated with equally talentedauthors?


Well,when you’re talking a line-up that includes Tom Piccirilli, Ed Gorman, AlSarrantonio, Chet Williamson, Jack Ketchum, Wayne Allen Sallee and WestonOchses for starters you just have got to know that you’re in mighty good company.


GNOH – So far you have released a number ofyour classic hard to get books through Crossroads, such as Long Horn, Big Shaggy and NothingTo Lose. Can you let slip any secrets on future publications?


Well,there are a few more old properties that are slowly working towards e-bookformat – but I am also working on a few new projects – including ahorror-historical in which a pack of Russian Cossacks go toe-to-toe with theundead; and another novella in which a team of over-the-hill bush leagueLabrador hockey players match up with a pack of vampires. Think 30 Days ofNight meets Slapshot and you are somewhere close to the mark.


GNOH – One of your upcoming releases that Iam really looking forward to is Tatterdemon. Can you tell us about this story? Am I right in thinking that this is an old story that you have reworkedfor publication?

TATTERDEMONis a full-length novel that deals with the troubles a small town runs into whenit must deal with an infestation of random killer scarecrows. There’s witchcraft,backhoes and power mower – not to mention a fire truck.

GNOH – Why scarecrows? Personally I think they are even more terrifying than clowns.

Ever since I first watched Patrick MacGoohan in “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” I have always had a thing for scarecrows. They are truly an underexploited monster and I am hoping that TATTERDEMON is going to take the scarecrow mythos about as far as it can go and then some.

GNOH – You are also about to release The Lunenburg Werewolf, I’ve always that that out of the all of the monsters available to write for these have been sorely misused. What made you decide to write a werewolf story, and have you done anything different with the werewolf in the book?

Well, THE LUNENBURG WEREWOLF is one of my regional collections so it what it boiled down to was this really cool story that I found in the archives and the fact that I badly wanted to retell it. It, like all of the stories in my collections are based squarely on a combination of fact and folklore and yarns that folks have been passing around in the maritimes for the last couple of hundred years. There are two dozen stories in this collection and they come from all around Nova Scotia and it seems to be really popular at the bookstores. Actually, I am going to a signing today at a big box Chapters and hopefully will see a lot of books moved.
GNOH – When is this being published?

It’s out in the maritimes now and available right across Canada through Chapters/Indigo outlets.

GNOH – Your books are published by a wide range of publishers, was this a conscious decisions, or is it something that just happened by chance?

I’d say more by chance than anything. If I find a publisher I like, I stick with them – as I have stuck with Nimbus Publishing and Crossroad Press. However,

GNOH –As well as being a horror writer, you also write for the regional press, how do you find the balance between the two?

It is a hard balancing act. I’m constantly wrestling between the two directions and it probably isn’t the smartest of strategies that I might employ. I might have been far wiser to keep my horror released under a penname – rather than constantly running the risk of somebody buying one of my nasty hardcore horror yarns thinking it was as soft a read as my folklore collections.But this is the path that I follow. I’m on it and there is no turning back at this point. I will write as hard as I can and see how it all works out at the end of the story.

GNOH – Do you think being a horror writer has ever caused you to be taken less seriously?

Oh yes.

GNOH – Besides writing, and telling stories what else do you like doing?

Eating.

I’m big on eating.

Getting bigger as I grow.

GNOH – Other than the projects mentioned above, are there any secrets about future publications you can let slip?

I think I’ve mentioned everything that is in the pipeline and a few that are just pipedreams.

GNOH – Many, many thanks Steve, it always a pleasure to talk to someone with such a passion for storytelling. Good luck for the future. 

Always a pleasure, Ginger Nuts.

You can purchase Steve’s books by clicking the following links please do Steve is one hell of a story teller.

Advertisements

One thought on “AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVE VERNON

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: