Ginger Nuts of Horror
Fresh from recent critical successes with novellas Jedi Summer and Detritus In Love (co-written with Bram Stoker award winning author Mercedes Murdock Yardley), we thought it was high time we got caught up with author (and Gingernuts contributor) John Boden to find out more about his recent output, writing process, and upcoming projects.
Gingernuts of Horror: We’ll get to the new and upcoming releases, but I’d like to catch up w ith you first about Jedi Summer, if that’s cool. Because that was my novella of last year, and the wider critical response seems to have been very good. How have you found the release?
John Boden: I'm thrilled that it's done well and people like it. It's no secret that I was a bit worried about it initially. I wrote it as a present for my little brother. I hadn't originally sought to publish it. It was sent to a publisher who held interest and then it sat idle for a year before I sent it to Eric at Post Mortem. He liked it and took it and I still worried. This thing is not a traditional story, has very little action or linear narrative and runs mainly on the cool breeze of emotional nostalgia. All that said, it's been quite humbling to see it so well-liked and hearing so many people say that it really brought them back to their childhoods-good and bad.
GNoH: I also have to ask - I know it was largely autobiographical - how did it feel putting so much of yourself out there in that way?
JB: It felt both freeing and bit like I was being an asshole. I mean, we tend to feel that everything that we experience is solely ours and while it is, it also isn't. I worried that I put too much out there. Most of my family are pretty private people, a lot of friends too. There are also people and events that really happened that I very barely camouflaged. Since no one has punched me in the face or harassed my family, I guess I worried for nothing.
GNoH: Do you find a similar thing with your fiction? I’ve found people almost never recognize themselves in a book, even when it feels blatant to me as a writer…
JB: I'm not sure, I really don't have all that much out there yet. I make no secret that I often staff my work with friends. nearly every character being based in some way on a friend or family member. Hell, often times I don't even change names.
GNoH: How was the process of writing Jedi? Did you find yourself struggling to remember parts, or did it flow very naturally? And how did you decide what to tell and what to leave out?
JB: It was originally written as a short story, called "The Magnetic Kid", this flash piece ended up as a chapter in Jedi Summer, but once I started going and the memories started flowing it went really smoothly. There were things I left out and there were many liberties taken with those I didn't. It's like that Adam Sandler movie, The Wedding Singer. That movie was set in 1985 or 86, but they crammed a million references to all manner of 80's shit in there. I did the same sort of thing. I like having people try to guess what was true and what was not. I could put other things in there. Maybe one day I will expand it or collect some more material in another thing. It only recently struck me that my story, "Possessed By A Broken Window" [which appeared in Lamplight Magazine, Volume III- Issue III-- is actually a "Johnny & Roscoe" story. So I could probably do it. Speaking of that story, Jacob Haddon and Apokrupha Press are plotting to bring a "radio treatment" of "Possessed By A Broken Window" to the masses sometime in the future.
GNoH: A Jedi sequel would be amazing! Or would it be a prequel? The Phantom Summer? :D
JB: I'm not sure if it would be a sequel or prequel. Possibly just an expansion with further recollections and such. I'll wait a while and see what happens. I can say that Jedi Summer is being translated for a German edition at the moment. that's a pretty nifty thing to have happen.
GNoH: Your writing has a lyrical quality - poetic, yet grounded and unpretentious. Where do you think that voice comes from? Who do you think of as your prime influences?
JB: I can't say where the style came from, I mean a lot of places. I began writing in school, after being inspired by Stephen King, Bradbury and Louis L'Amour. I started writing and wrote pretty pathetic Stephen King fan fiction or terrible pulp stories. King was one of the first writers that I read, you know "adult-type" material. And I loved it. I will still claim his importance. No one writes characters like he does. I always loved his simpler work (his middle years stuff is pretty bloated and hard-to-take at times), but those first dozen or so novels I recall vividly, and I've not read them in decades. So yeah, I stopped writing after graduating and didn't actively start again until Shock Totem started, almost 20 years later. Now, during that time, I read a lot. Discovering and devouring anything from Joe Lansdale or Robert McCammon, while also taking in William Burroughs, James Havoc and Th. Metzger. I also owe as much influence to music as anything - it was always playing - my parents, though split, both loved music and I got a steady diet of classic hard rock, early metal, folk and country music. I always paid close attention to lyrics and used to read album liner notes like most kids read Highlights. I almost think that stuff -- all of that stuff--sort of got stuck in my "creative craw" and waited for me to decide to write again because when I came back to it, I found myself writing in a simple and clear voice but with an (I've been told) unique sense of description. It's just how I write.
GNoH: The songwriting influence is very interesting to me. Who do you think of as master storytellers in terms of lyricists? And what about that form of storytelling appeals to you?
JB: Alice Cooper always told great stories, I'm well aware that a lot of those songs were co-written by others or by outside writers, but I loved them. Rolling Stones have some great songs...any song can be a story if you listen right. I grew up loving old story song country--"Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town," "Psycho," "Phantom 309." So many...The Drive-By Truckers and a band called I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House are both fantastic at gritty and seedy everyday dark dramas. I can't put a finger on what exactly appeals to me other than I tend to like concise. I like to eat fast and not have to chew much.
GNoH: moving on to Detritus In Love , can you recall how that project came about?
JB: Way back, when Mercedes Yardley worked with me at Shock Totem, I had written a flash piece called "The Thief, She Cried." I asked her to read it as we always sent each other our stuff to scope. She liked it and I told her I was thinking of expanding it somehow. I asked if she wanted to do it with me and she said of course. We decided outright on no strict timeline or hard deadlines. We'd write when we could, as much as we could. So three years and some change later, we had a very dark almost fablesque tale of a strange boy, his ghost pals and a dark enemy approaching. It's title was originally "Loving The Girl With X's For Eyes" but Laird Barron put out a book around the same time and we decided to change it, so Detritus In Love it became. One of the best comments we get is that people can't distinguish our voices--it reads seamless. We're pretty proud of it and have talked a tiny bit about possibly going back one day.
GNoH: I’d agree with that, it really did feel like one voice. What did you enjoy about the collaborative process? What did it teach you about your own writing?
JB: I really enjoyed the lack of anchor. I liked that it almost felt like, remember being a kid when you wrote to a pen pal or a friend (like wrote a letter, stamped it and chucked it in the post) and you'd wait but then forget or become distracted by life and then it a response would arrive and it was like a magical interruption to the daily hum-drummery? It was like that. I'd write a bit and send it off and a week or three would float by before she sent back something or vice versa. I think it taught me how to pick up cues, intended or otherwise as we went with no clear plot plan or outline, just wrote our way out of it.
GNoH: I’d also like to touch on your recent Double Barrel Horror release - two very dark tales. ‘There Will Be Angels’ is both horrifying and heartbreaking - can you recall now what sparked the central premise of this story?
JB: That one came from the old Shock Totem Saturday night flash challenge. I believe the picture was a black and white still of girls on a wall. It was surreal and creepy and this is what I wrote during the given hour. It's strange and sad.
GNoH: It seems like that flash fiction challenge spawned a lot of interesting work! Do you have any other stories that came from that challenge? Is it ongoing, and if not are there any plans to revive it?
JB: The monthly story challenge saw a lot of good new writers (many who have gone on to much acclaim) as winners. The bi-weekly flash contest saw a lot of stories go on as well. I can't remember but I think my story "Down By The Ocean" (Splatterpunk #5) started as one of these. The challenge is no more I think. It was held on the ST forum and I had turned over moderating privileges to others long ago.
GNoH: As for ‘Marlene The Magnificent’ - wow! Do you have any ‘red lines’ - areas you won’t write about in fiction - or do you think any subject is fair game?
JB: Heh. I don't usually write sex, graphic or otherwise in my stuff. Not that I'm a prude, I just don't get there in the way I tell my tales. Marlene was different. A co-worker once remarked that she'd had to have her children via c-section because "her vagina wasn't magic," and so the rest of that work day I found myself thinking about what it might be like were a woman to have a magic vagina...and of course, that went to a weird place and this is what happened. It's probably the closest to bizarro that I've gotten outside of some micro-flash I have. It's not at all like most of what I've done. As for any subject being fair game, why not? I mean if it happens for real we can talk about it--write about it, right? Shit isn't going to go away if we pretend it doesn't happen. That line of reasoning has been a time-tested failure.
GNoH: I’ve enjoyed your short fiction work a great deal - Night Games in Blight Digest springs to mind as a brilliant slice of dark nasty - are there any plans for a short fiction collection at some point?
JB: One day maybe. I'd definitely need to write more stories. Most of what I have that hasn't been published is flash fiction. So I guess the short answer is yes, at some point.
GNoH: And I understand we’ve got another novella release coming up soon. What can you tell us about Spungunion?
JB: Spungunion is coming out 31st October I am extremely proud of it and the folks who've read it in beta stages or to possibly give me a blurb for it have all dug it. Spungunion is set in the early 80's and revolves around a trucker named Deke. His wife was murdered and he's spent the last year allowing his grief and anger devour him. He is finally offered a little help by his boss who puts him in touch with another trucker named Tiny. Tiny holds a special job description which allows him to call some very...um...otherworldy contacts out for favors. As Deke meets with bizarre beings and begins to assemble perceived clues as to the killer of his wife, he finds that most of the time what we seek to find and what we are really looking for are rarely the same. I wrote this from a very personal place concerning grief and its weight but also as a tribute to Joe R. Lansdale. He's been a huge influence and I have always enjoyed his wild characters and uniquely strange settings.
GNoH: As one of those lucky beta readers, I’d say that for me one of the huge strengths of this story is how it plays in the liminal spaces between reality and dark fantasy. How do you approach works with a more supernatural element to them? Do you find writing that kind of story affects your style or process?
JB: Honestly, I don't really think much about it. I just write what I write and however it goes, it goes. That's probably a shitty answer but it's the truth. Sometimes, most times, it begins around a scene or a character and then spreads from there. I just start and stop and see what it looks like when I decide it's time to stop for real. I'm a very undisciplined writer. I don't have a routine or set schedule. I've been trying harder to adopt one of those but my day job schedule is kind of terrible and I've found that if I try and force creativity when I'm brain tired or just plain old tired, the outcome is less than favorable.
GNoH: Thanks so much for your time, man. In closing, what do you have in the pipeline after Spungunion drops? What do the rest of 2017 and beyond hold for John Boden?
JB: I'm somewhere past the midpoint on a quietly odd western called Walk The Darkness Down. I have the second "not-really-for-children" children's book written and am working with artist Chris Enterline on the illustrations. This one is about a haunted house. Chris is amazing. He and I have recently started a series of one panel things called "Quick & Dirty" which is a single panel drawing that pairs with a micro-flash story of mine. Those will be fun. I have several other collaborative projects looming. None I really want to call out yet as it's way too early. There's a German edition of Jedi Summer coming soon from Phrenetic Press. I think it'll be titled Sommerland. A couple of stories in forthcoming anthos. And you're most welcome. thank you for asking me to babble.
Spungunion: (pronounced: Spun-Gun-Yun) noun; 1.) a dish made from rotting road kill, usually a skunk or a opossum. The more fragrant or maggoty, the better. 2.) Something that's been on the road for a long and unfortunate time...
This is the story of Deke Larch, a widowed trucker who has lost everything and is struggling to find his place in a world and the person who took it from him. That journey puts him in touch with strange characters and bizarre places. Deke had always felt like he operated on the fringe of society, but he really had no idea...his journey will teach him that monsters are interpretive and sometimes what we think we want is not what we seek at all.
Spungunion is a story about grief and loss, about lonely roads and lost souls, about failure to let go and falling when you finally do. It's about livin' and dyin' and how sometimes the difference between is very slight.
“This trucker’s tale of bloody revenge and harrowing self-illumination takes place in the deepest, strangest veins of the Twilight Zone’s midnight highways. Boden rolls his supernatural mystery down the blacktop surface of the road to Hell, and you’re gonna love the journey into the fire.” – Philip Fracassi, author of Behold the Void, Fragile Dreams and Altar.
PURCHASE A COPY FROM DYNATOX MINISTRIES
Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “My Lovely Wife”, “Toenails” and the hugely popular “Night of the Penguins”. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
There isn’t much to say about me. I always thought I was boring. I play with my cats and help my son with his homework. But I can also write really sick stuff, which I guess people find fascinating.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing I enjoy knitting and sometimes downing pints of gin at parties (or doing something equally as stupid). I enjoy drawing. - I’ve been trying to recover my drawing skills.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Other than horror there’s been a few different influences. I’m one of those writers that constantly has music on, even when writing. That plays a role. I’ve been trying to be a bit more open about how dreadful my music tastes truly are over at facebook.com/danibrownbooks. In terms of reading, sci-fi has played a role. I used to read a lot of it, mainly because my father made me. My son loves going through my old sci-fi books and finding something he likes (it isn’t hoarding if its books). The vast amount of fantasy I read plays a part too.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
I don’t often come out of my bubble so I’m typically sheltered from the negative associations with horror. When I did come out of my bubble briefly to try the tinder thing, I wouldn’t tell most of my matches what exactly it was that I wrote. Unfortunately, being guarded seemed to drive off the best looking of the lot of them! I do find as a woman writer, I’m treated with a lot of negativity and disbelief to begin with, even without saying what I write. I get a bit jealous when I see men talking about their self-doubts during the writing process as I don’t feel like I can do that. If I did, I would be verbally jumped upon and told it is time to grow up and get a real job.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
In terms of horror and the way the world is going, I’m curious to see Trump’s personality traits appear in horror, but subtly so it isn’t obviously him. That’s a few years away though, I think, when he isn’t so fresh.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
There’s so many I can’t name. My early favourites were The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Reading something young, it kind of sticks. Anything by Stephen King. There was a Lovecraft influence in my writing long before I read any myself because of Stephen King. And The Story of the Eye (which I didn’t read until my third year of university). Still one of my favourite books, it isn’t just relevant when writing sexy things, but played a major role in creating characters such as the husband in “My Lovely Wife”.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
Dav Crabes. “Trafficking and Sexual December”. You really need to experience it for yourself.
How would you describe your writing style
I wouldn’t really know how to describe my writing style. Sometimes what I write is good and I surprise myself. Other times it is dreadful. I write in different tenses from different points of view, not typically in the same piece but I have been told off by editors for it. I tend to be rather descriptive, which is purely down to reading Lord of the Rings more than once.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I like it when I make people feel sick or cry. It means my job was well done. If someone draws my attention to a review, I will sometimes take a screen shot and post it on my website. I simply don’t have the time to go looking for them myself.
My attention has been drawn to positive reviews of my nice things too. I like those reviews but it only seems to apply to short stories.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
I get really frustrated if I have the images in my head for a story but cannot put it in words when I sit down to write it. Working on more than one thing at once helps this.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I wouldn’t rule out any subject. I’m not fond of writing about dead children or animals, but I do it. I’m working on something now with a dead child.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
With the exception of Xanthe and the characters in “Ketamine Addicted Pandas” (to be published), I randomly select names, typically from a book of baby names, or the huge name dictionary sitting on my shelf. Xanthe was special because I needed a name starting with X. I named her after the story was written. With Cody, Corey and Casey (Ketamine Addicted Pandas), I did select their names based on those names being popular when I was growing up. But for the most part, it is random selection. I’m not going to waste time thinking of a name. Sometimes the meaning of the name will shape the character and one time it shaped the title of a book (Middle Age Rae of Fucking Sunshine).
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I write a lot more than I used to. I no longer obsess over brutal scenes and have become pretty desensitized towards what is extreme and what isn’t. For the most part, my confidence has grown, although it still suffers from being knocked back. I’m also willing to put things down on paper no matter how bad the writing is, knowing I can go and fix it during edits.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A vast music library and something to play it on that gets you away from the computer. A pack of pens and a stack of blank notebooks. And post it notes. Those are very important for jotting random notes and fragments on.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
I’ve received a lot of advice over the years but I think the best is, just write. Write it down, no matter how bad the words sound together. And employ a good editor.
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
I’ve recently hosted my first ever launch party. It was a real life one. That was fun and I sold a few books. What I’ve been doing lately is being a lot more open with what I’m listening to or watching. People seem to enjoy how that impacts my writing. It isn’t any good posting endless links and nothing else. There are links on my facebook page and on my website. I will repost stuff on occasion and when something is first published, I’ll post it a few times. That seems to be enough. People can find it. They want to know me. Sometimes I’ll post a selfie or a picture of a record I bought. Every now and again, I’ll talk about what I’m writing at that time.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
I have a character called Seth who is my favourite child. I celebrate his birthday every year. The piece hasn’t been finished yet – I’ve been writing it for ten years!. All the characters I’ve created after him have a little piece of Seth inside. I look forward to getting back to him once my to-do list is complete.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
I would most like to forget about Rae. Readers like her. I don’t. She started off alright but then people and their eyebrows or bizarre sexual fantasies decided to attach themselves to me and they were difficult to get rid of. Seriously, while trying to write Rae, I received countless facebook messages from a woman with a child in the same class as mine about her eyebrows. I offered her tweezers! What more could I have done? And while that was going on, I was given increasingly graphic descriptions of what some people would like to do to me. Totally not cool. All this stuff in my personal life changed the character. I don’t like being reminded of it. I have another character who is similar. I’ll finish that story off once “Seth” is done and in the stages of being published.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
I think Night of the Penguins would be the best place to start. It covers the extreme. It covers weird. It covers horror. There’s some graphic sexual content. It really has a bit of everything.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
The first paragraph of Night of the Penguins
Carla spent the breakfast hour gathering snails in her garden. Even if she dreamt the entire thing, Spores deserved to have snails chucked at him.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book to be published was “Broccoli”. It was also my first attempt at self-publishing, a long-time dream of mine. Written in second person, present tense. It starts when you wake up. It contains something to offend everyone. It made a reviewer vomit. There isn’t much I can say about it. You are delirious, or aren’t you?
I have some short stories due to be published soon. There’s stories in “Sparks” (to read the stories that were too extreme for Burdizzo, and the rejection letters from The Reverend Burdizzo and The Black Nun, visit my website danibrownqueenoffilth.weebly.com). There are stories in “Vs X” and “Strange Behaviors”. There’s probably a few more due to be released over the upcoming 12 months. I also have a Dual Depravity with David Owain Hughes coming soon from JEA. The first of the “Stef and Tucker” series should be released eventually (it’s a series that started off as slash-fiction about my boyfriend and a band he really likes – just to weird him out!).
In terms of what I’m working on, this time around on my to-do list, there’s mainly novels and novellas. There’s “Sparky the Spunky Robot”. I’m a bit fed up of people loving my nice pleasant short stories but only ever buying my extreme and disgusting books so I’ve combined the two with a cute robot powered by cum. There’s another containing lethal chupacabra spunk. Spunk seems to be a bit of a theme, but the next one has the Mer-people of Europa. And there’s a body horror somewhere in there, cum-free.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I’m not really sure what cliché I would erase. It would be nice to change people’s opinion of horror writers and writers in general.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Mayan Blue by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason sticks out the most as a great book I’ve recently read (I’m a bit behind). Anything with Mayan in the title is going to appeal to me. At the time I bought a copy, I was just finishing up Night of the Penguin which had a scene based on Aztec ritual (written many years ago), which made it appeal even more (Aztec and Mayan have similar themes). One day, I’ll have the time to re-read it. I haven’t taken a chance on a book in a long time. I don’t get much time for reading, so I tend to go with books that seem as if I’d like them.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer
Interviewer: Would you like me to buy you burritos and give you free bottles of gin and absinthe plus any mixers you desire?
Me: Why, yes, that would be nice.