My first ever live Random-Ass Interview… or series of questions… what the fuck ever.
My first ever live Random-Ass Interview… or series of questions… what the fuck ever.
Like many writers, I get preoccupied with monetizing my hours of work. It only makes sense; you bust your ass, you expect to get a reward for it. Yet, I’m here to tell you that the writing might end up being the only reward you get.
Sure, you might get some fans, might get some people who enjoy reading your stuff. But, the bottom line is, don’t expect to become a millionare, or even a thousandare, from this. It’s a difficult thing to hear, and to accept, but your writing might not lead you anywhere. you might not see fame or fortune in your lifetime from the thing you spend hours doing.
This of course raising the next obvious question. If all of this hard work might not lead to anything, then why do it at all? Now, we get to the heart of this. Of all this.
H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe are two of the most, if not the most, influential writers on the horror genre; the genre which I love, and am proud to be a fan, and contributor to. Neither of them saw much money, or fame in their lifetimes. Yet, their vision continues on, and their work has influenced more writers than I can name.
There are still days when I forget my own advice, by the way. Days I get angry I have to stay at a retail job I hate to make money. But, you need money. And there isn’t a great chance you’ll make a living wage being a writer. So fuck it. Write because you love it, because it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something. But, there’s no shame in trying this out, and realizing it isn’t for you. If you love it, do it, and if not, go do something else that makes you happy. Because at the end of the day, life is about trying to find your own personal place, in which you are content with your life. I’m getting there. It’s a slow process.
There are still days when I forget my own advice, by the way. Days I get angry I have to stay at a retail job I hate to make money. But, you need money. And there isn’t a great chance you’ll make a living wage being a writer. So fuck it. Write because you love it, because it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something. But, there’s no shame in trying this out, and realizing it isn’t for you. If you love it, do it, and if not, go do something else that makes you happy. Because at the end of the day, life is about trying to find your own personal place, in which you are content with your life.
I’m getting there. It’s a slow process.
True Detective follows Rust Cohle (Mathew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they attempt to solve the murder of a woman in Louisiana. It contains many elements, from classical horror stories, to modern horror stories, and from old and new horror films and shows.
There are many references to the classic Robert W. Chambers series of horror stories, “The King in Yellow.” The main reference is through the visual use of something somewhat similar to “The Yellow Sign,” on the victim in the first episode, though I’m not sure yet whether or not this show is in a universe where the stories were published. The first victim in episode 1, former prostitute Dora Kelly Lange, has something that appears to be “The Yellow Sign,” on her back.
However, when looking for a picture of the design on Lange’s back, I discovered an article which says it is actually derived from the Illuminati. I know nothing about the Illuminati, so I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to make your own judgement call on what the sign is supposed to be. It could easily just be a spiral, representing the cyclical nature the killer thinks life and time exist within.
Any time you hear about “The Yellow King,” or “Carcossa,” or even “The Black Stars,” that’s the show drawing from “The King in Yellow.” Indeed, “The King in Yellow” was before it’s time. First published in 1895, most of the stories revolve around a fictional play, aptly named “The King in Yellow” that drove readers to madness.
As the show progresses, Cohle’s character grows increasingly unsettling. We start to really question his sanity. This doubt fits perfectly with the theme of the most influential of stories in, “The King in Yellow,” namely that of “The Repairer of Reputations.” In “The Repairer” a man named Hildred meets with Mr. Wilde, who has a book that contains shocking truths about lots of people. Mr. Wilde uses this book, with its secrets, to blackmail individuals, makes his money in this fashion. I’ve talked about these stories on one of the podcasts I contribute to, Miskatonic Musings, on the episode entitled The King of Creol
so if you want to hear more about my thoughts on the stories, listen to that.
Recently, I was thrilled to read in an interview at The Wall Street Journal with Nic Pizzolatto that he is a fan of the work of Thomas Ligotti, and indeed some lines in the show are almost word for word from Ligotti’s books. Pizzolatto even references other modern day weird fiction writers I’ve yet to even take in. It’s a really great interview, and has made me an even bigger fan of Pizzolatto, and even more excited for the next season of True Detective.
Visually, there are of course other influences, which dare I say are borderline derivative. The devil’s Trap is a Southern thing, I haven’t checked yet whether they are a legit thing, but they remind me an awful lot of the little stick designs and people from The Blair Witch Project.
There’s also the glaringly obvious comparisons to be made between all the antler stuff on True Detective which also features prominently in Hannibal.
And, the use of the gas mask on Ledue reminds me of the character Bing from Joe Hill’s Nos4a2. The description of Bing as a gas mask wearing killer is a hard one to escape, when you compare him to the gas mask wearing killer in True Detective.
No matter what, the show True Detective is great for horror. It is just police procedural enough to draw in the mainstream audience who wouldn’t normally indulge in these horrific things, (Well, save for the Hannibal crowd) on their own. It combines the mystery and thriller genres with horror in a seamless and beautiful blend. And at the end of the day, who cares what the genre is classified as, as long as it’s good.
Many years have gone by since I first got the idea in my head to be a published writer, in the public sphere. And with those years, undeniable and ever-present problems have haunted the house of my mind. Simply put, I have a lot of trouble not worrying while writing.
These fears run the gambit, from coming off like an uninformed idiot, to my very style itself. I’m not dense, and am aware that I read like a coked-out, distracted narcissist a lot of the time. I’m all too aware of my abuse of the first person pronouns, and of my lack of vocabulary. My word repetition is staggering, and sometimes it’s on purpose, but a lot of the time it isn’t. Don’t get me started on my fluctuation from incomplete, to long run-on sentences.
Over the years, my idea of what this site and these articles should be has changed. When I started, the plan was to have it be a blog chronicling my attempts to make it as a published horror novelist. Of all the trials and tribulations of finding an agent, and shopping a first novel around.
And then I finished my first book. And I don’t know, many factors kept, and still keep me from publishing it. Many people told me to self publish it, and I just don’t want to do that. But, I’d be lying if I said last summer, I didn’t go through a couple editors. I’d be a liar, if I didn’t tell you I got a friend to make me a cover for the book, so I could in fact self-publish it.
But things just didn’t feel right. I tried to change the style of the book, to add dialogue after an editor’s request, to what was on its first draft always supposed to simply be a letter. A serial killer’s letter, and who on Earth writes a letter, and adds in dialogue complete with “this type of shit,” he said. In its first form, it was supposed to read like something you’d find hidden in a guy’s sock drawer. A really long letter, that was a confession, of sorts. Other factors came into play. Not feeling like the character described the 18 states he visited enough, and a lack of faith in my own editing, and the ability of others to edit my first novel, means that yet again, it will stay a thing I send to friends every once and a while. I’ve moved on.
Yet, I still had this site. I’d paid for a domain that intentionally had my name in the title.As I was writing the first book, it was always my plan to have reviews on this site. To showcase my interests, and influences. To tell people about the real stinkeroos, and the gems. But, after the first book was trunked, suddenly all the site seemed to be about was reviews. Oh, sure, every once in a blue moon I’d throw a link to a short story I got published. But, I lost the fire I once had. And, so, for about a year or more, this site has been left by the wayside.
I hopped from site to site, writing freelance. And I’m still welcome to contribute at a couple, I’m pretty sure. One not so much, but I ain’t got time to dwell on that bullshit.
I have changed the name of this blog, (at least the header), many times. From Spooky Sean’s Sinful Bloggery, it was shortened to Spooky Sean’s Bloggery, and then to simply, Spooky Bloggery. I changed the theme and overall design of the site, and it was a bitch and a half. I got rid of my links, because the new theme didn’t look great with them, but I’m thinking about adding a few back to the side of the page.
Which brings me back to why I’m writing this. I guess in a way I do want this to become about Sean M. Thompson the fiction writer again. I started writing for a site called Adventures in Poor Taste, so I have a great venue to showcase my nonfiction reviews, and articles. I don’t want to stop writing reviews and write-ups for this site entirely. But, I’d prefer to steer more towards analysis of multiple works on here. Because let’s face facts, my traffic is in the gutter, and I don’t give a fuck anymore. Why not make this a place I vent? Why not make this an actual blog?
I still worry while I write. I worry I’m not writing the right thing. I worry I sound stupid. I worry that my style sucks. I worry that maybe I should just give up on this site, and just write for Adventures in Poor Taste, and maybe I should give up the fiction entirely.
I stretch myself very thin. I’m currently doing a review of every single episode of Community, I do at least 1 comic review a week. I contribute to my own podcast, which in a fun and unexpected way stopped being merely a plot to get traffic up for this site, and started being about interviewing people I am intrigued by. I started as a co-host on a podcast known as Miskatonic Musings. I’m still attempting to help the crew at AIPT get their podcast off the ground. And, starting soon, I’ll be one of 2 hosts on a Stephen King podcast.
But, when does that leave me time for the fiction? This question plagues me. The logical part of me knows it’s obvious; Sean, you write for the sites people read, and you contribute to the things that people take in. And, going with that, I would only contribute to AIPT, and Miskatonic Musings.
But nonfiction is not why I started this journey. I realized last night that I need the fiction. I remembered last night why I started my first book in the first place. I am a man with a lot of problems. I’ve suffered from depression for my whole life. I’ve suffered with social anxiety disorder. I have Attention Deficit Disorder. And with all this comes a lot of pain, a lot of sharp memories, which bleed me internally every time they rear their ugly heads. I have a lot of anger, and I have nowhere to direct it. So, for better or worse, writing a book as a serial killer helped me to channel some of that anger. The most fucked up individual you can think of, namely the character from my first book, was a great way to express all the hatred, and sorrow in my heart, without having to come out and say “I am Sean M. Thompson, and I am fucked.”
Because I am not “fucked,” as glamorous as that would be, and as easy as it would feel to just accept that. I have my problems, sure, but I am a caring and compassionate human being. I am a good friend to many, a good boyfriend (I’ve been told), and above all I am a person that wants to help people. You, reading this, I want to entertain you. I want to make you go through emotions. I want you to have a place you can go to help you when you don’t know how to deal with your own life. I want to make you think, laugh, cry, what the fuck ever. As long as I’m entertaining you. As long as I’m giving you what I so desperately needed all my life; a safe outlet, and a place to escape to forget about all the bullshit inside.
Bottom line is I don’t give a fuck anymore what I write for this website. I just want to write. And if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to tell you about what I have going on from time to time. Because this is a place where I can truly be me. Where I can interview artists I respect, and where I can tell you about my attempt to create my own art, even if sometimes it drives me nuts.
I started what I think will be another book a few months back. And the other day, I decided that even if I have to scale back contributing to some of the sites and podcasts where people actually read me, or listen to me, I want to give it another go.
I want to prove to myself that I can write another book. Ideally it won’t take another two fucking years, lol.
I’m not going anywhere. So even if this will just be a place where I practice writing, and my main audience is me, I don’t give a shit. Because creation is better than nothing. And because writing this made me feel a lot better, made me feel like I shouldn’t give up.
To all the people who have been here since the start, thank you. And to all you new people to come, I’d like to welcome you. Because I’m here for you. If you’re going through some shit, I want to hear it. I’m linking the Facebook page for this blog below. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here.
You should never give up on your dreams. I’m not giving up on mine.
This short marks the writing, directing, and producing debut of the Boston area’s own Izzy Lee. The title is based off of a ridiculously misogynistic quote by Senator Todd Akin, in which this genius of the human race said, and I quote…
If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Yeah. Someone actually said that. Fucking ay. Sometimes it’s super embarrassing to be a dude. You’re making the normal guys look bad, politicians! Like that’s anything new…
Anyway, on to the short. It clocks in at around five minutes, and is without any kind of dialogue save for one line at the beginning, where a blonde woman says “welcome back senator.” Red lights all around. The senator watches a scantily-clad woman with a variety of knots tied about herself dance for him. As she dances, she lets him grab parts of the rope, and he unties the knots which bind her. It’s a surprisingly enticing form of tease. In this scene, it’s like the senator is unwrapping a present; an apt visual metaphor for the objectification of women by an older generation. The scene is dimly lit, and atmospheric. Seems like the type of place an old senator would frequent. It rings true.
Of course, it seems that somebody put something in his drink. I always think of this song when such scenes occur.
Uh-oh, the senator seems to have himself a case of the drugged-uppies.
Cue three ladies, lit in an otherworldly green. And hmm, they have a weird little thing in a jar. And from there on out, things are invasive for Mr. Senator.
Short, to the point, and moody, Legitimate is an exercise in the power of visuals to convey tone. Legitimate switches from a seductive red color scheme with the dancing girl, to a nefarious green color scheme when the three ladies with the jar cut open the drugged up senator, and ends with the harsh over-bright glare of sun on a dirty street as the senator wakes up to quite a surprise indeed. The only nagging question left is, what the Hell was that thing from the jar? It’s some kind of little worm beastie, that much is apparent, but as this short doesn’t have the budget to go too nutty, we are left with close-ups, and have to fill in our imagination for the rest.
Still, despite the effects at the end, Legitimate uses score and lighting to its advantage. It’s well crafted, and intriguing. The short is an effective social commentary on male privilege in the rape culture, without having to resort to heavy-handed dialogue. It wisely chooses sight over exposition, and manages to take the viewer through a vastly different emotional landscape in just five short minutes.
Legitimate is legit all right.
Is there anything you wouldn’t sign for a fan?
I think a penis is out of the question.
What do you think of this new era in which tattoos are losing their stigma, and it seems that everyone and their grandma is getting ink done? Did you do any research into tattoos for your story The Rose.
The first tattoo I ever saw on a pretty woman was that little one I describe in THE ROSE. The woman who wore it was a formidable but fragile-looking New York waitress, and I wrote the story for her. I like tatts if they’re well done, though I don’t have any myself. In my generation guys wore their hair long, women went braless and everybody had bell-bottom hip-hugger jeans and love beads. I have no problem with decorating the tree.
Have you ever come up with any pseudonyms you decided not to use?
Has anyone ever sent you an angry email saying their name is Jack Ketchum, and that they wish you would stop writing books?
No but I did have one guy on my message board say he’d like to “hang my sorry ass” just as they did my namesake.
Do you have a working title for your book of poetry, or your collection of essays on other writers, or your next short story collection yet?
Is one closer to the finish line than the others?
Closest to the finish line is the book of poems, NOTES FROM THE CAT HOUSE. It’s edited and we’re at the discussing-cover-art stage. And I’ll be reading them myself for the audio-book version, which we’re planning to tape some time late this month up at Lucky McKee’s place in Oklahoma. Next up will be WHAT THEY WROTE: In Praise of Dark Fiction. I haven’t finished the story collection yet so the title’s subject to change, but I’m thinking WINTER CHILD at the moment.
What’s the craziest shit you’ve ever seen in NYC?
Walking up Broadway one day I saw this guy in a natty three-piece suit pull his jacket up completely over his head so he couldn’t see a damn thing and walk two blocks blind, crossing 69th Street against the light.
Favorite horror comic, and or just comic, you read as a child?
What’s your favorite comic currently, if you have one?
I’m out of the loop on comics these days. But growing up I loved the Classic Comics, which I’d often read alongside the actual book so I could figure out what the author was saying during the rough spots. And then for some reason I was crazy about Plastic Man, reaching around buildings after the bad guys.
Would you ever like to adapt your work into a comic? If there is already an adaptation out, I apologize for not knowing about it.
(I think an Off Season comic would make my life, if adapted correctly.)
Nobody’s approached me to adapt a novel, but I’d be up for it. OFF SEASON would be a great place to start. There’s one in the works for my story THE BOX. I read the storyboard and it’s pretty damn good.
Has a nun ever thrown anything at you?
They can’t all be winners…
I had a brief affair with an ex-nun my first year out of college. I can’t remember if she threw anything at me. But probably.
How many pets have you had over the years? Did you ever try to get them to dance around a fire, ala your story from Peaceable Kingdom, Firedance?
When I was a kid my family had three dogs and a cat. Since then I’ve had ten cats, five of them with me now. I think they dance around a whole fuck of a lot while I’m asleep.
Has there ever been a cover a publisher wanted to use that you weren’t a fan of?
How much creative control have you had over covers in the past, and have you acquired more creative control over your covers in current years?
What’s up with this cover?
Good grief, that again! The worst of a bad lot. The original covers for HIDE AND SEEK and COVER
were lousy too, and I thought the single drop of blood against the black background for OFF SEASON was a ripoff of a Tom Tyron book — a drop of blood against a white background — though a lot of people seemed to like it. I’d suggested a severed female arm reaching up a la the Sistine Chapel’s Adam reaching up to god, and a red box with the words WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS SCENES THAT MAY BE TOO GRAPHICALLY REALISTIC FOR SOME READERS prominent at the bottom. Which I thought was absolutely true. They actually printed something like that for the distributors’ edition but then dumped it when the distributors started calling me a violent pornographer. Early on the major publishers almost never gave me good covers. But this one for GIRL was the pits. It shot itself in the foot. If you were looking for fun horror, GIRL wasn’t it, and if you were looking for serious horror, you’d never pick up a book with that idiot image on the front. Now, unless it’s a foreign edition — and sometimes even then — I have serious input on all my covers.
How do you deal with douchebags? I mean, you, specifically.
I tolerate them until they become intolerable, then I leap down their throat. Happily I haven’t had to do that in a long time. It’s not a pretty sight.
If you could be a dinosaur, what kind would you want to be?
Archaeopteryx, transitioning into bird.
Do you ever go to events out of genre functions to promote your work?
I’ve done a few library readings and a half dozen or so at Barnes & Noble. And they tend to ask me once a year to read at the KGB Bar here in Manhattan. The year before last at Halloween I read two stories while artists illustrated them at the same time, which was projected live onto screens, and we had bands playing music they’d composed for each of the stories to accompany them. That was great fun!
Sister guest questions:
Gillian-Okay… do you like the beach?
The nude ones, yes. The others, eh.
What’s your favorite smell?
A woman’s hair, a cat’s fur.
What’s your favorite meat?
Have you ever thought about writing a noir mystery novel?
Though of it, but not seriously enough to actually do anything about it. Yet.
What do you think of some of the names used to describe the subgenres your work supposedly fits into, such as splatterpunk, or torture porn for the film adaptations, such as The Woman?
I prefer to think of your work as social horror, and the more extreme stuff I think of as simply extreme horror. Do you find the concept of genre labels to be something your not concerned with, and to be something publishers are primarily concerned with?
We do love our little pigeonholes, don’t we. Okay, take these two. Edward Lee called me the Godfather of Splatterpunk and I didn’t mind that at all. If you’ve read the two original anthologies you know they’re pretty damn good, so to be associated with them was fine with me. Lately a lot of what I’ve read in the area of extreme horror is dull, derivative and dumbed-down, extreme for the sake of extreme, with no attention to character or new ideas, though happily there are also plenty of exceptions to that. So I still don’t mind. The term torture-porn is simply nonsense. What people are calling torture-porn is just FRIDAY THE 13th given a face-lift. You want real torture porn, you go on the net, right? You go to Abused Tube or Kinky Tube or whatever. Whoever called THE WOMAN torture porn should go do a comparison test between any of the FRIDAY movies and, say, HOSTEL and realize how alike they are, then watch THE WOMAN and see how different it is. All that said, I honestly don’t care what people call my stuff. I just call it “my stuff.”
How many index cards do you usually go through per story? I wanna say I heard you say in an interview you take notes for your books on index cards, and put them on a cork board.
Index cards, post-it notes, bar napkins. Yeah, they’re all over my three-quarter-round bulletin board. For a novel I can go through a hundred of them. But there’s always something. Story ideas out of left field, dreams, crazy notions. Right now there are thirty-six. I counted them for you.
Is your worst fear a snake that’s abusive to its family?
Ha! Actually my worst fear is Alzheimer’s. I get that, I might think that I’m a snake that’s abusive to his family.
Would you be overjoyed if Tom Waits read one of your stories for an audiobook?
Fuck, yes! And could I have James Earl Jones do one too? I might get rich on that one…
What’s he worst job you’ve ever had? How did the lumberyard job stack up?
In college I played garbage man to a slightly batty old Boston Brahmin lady who ate entirely out of S. S. Pierce cans. She’s wash them out clean and I’d come by once a week to collect them from her kitchen and take them down and dump them. She’d want to talk my ear off every time. And man, those cans were heavy! The lumberyard was a piece of cake by comparison. Hell, I got to drive a fork-lift.
I know how you feel about the current self-publishing crazy landscape, but for my readers who haven’t heard you speak on it, what are your thoughts on this self publishing trend?
What are your thoughts on the ever-evolving landscape of publishing? Has anything really changed, or just it does seem that way?
Self-publishing used to be called Vanity Publishing and there was a reason for that. About ten of your closest friends were going to buy and read your book and you’d have boxes up the wazoo in your living room. Any fool could call himself an author and still can. Though now, because the net has made it cheaper, any godforsaken, lazy-ass fool can. And he can do it over and over again! Editors and agents, fallible though they may be, are the only ones that stand between us readers and the total dumbing-down of what we read. E-publishing is fine if you’re an established writer, if you’ve already earned your spurs. But that means you’ve probably already been rejected time and time again first. You’ve maybe even gotten some good advice along the way. Not everybody can drive a fork-lift first time out. And not everybody can be a writer.
Thanks for agreeing to the interview. If you have anything to plug, plug it up right now!
Almost all my Leisure titles have been picked up for either trade paperback or e-book or both by Amazon, so if you’re looking for my stuff that’s a good place to start. You can find books with other publishers by going to the list on my website at http://jackketchum.net and there’s even some freebies up there, with more to come, and a message board for you to complain on or whatever. The five movies made from my books are all available on Netflix. And finally…you’re welcome.
Went back and added my intro tune to this, and edited a bit of the end down.