1. You have directed movies and written novels. Which medium do you prefer?
I used to be on the fence about this, because I love both mediums, but I’ve come to realize that I prefer working as a novelist. I need to write books, and I no longer feel like I need to make movies; I don’t know that I’ll ever make one again, but I will if the bug returns.
2. Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?
We’re influenced by everything around us and everyone whose work we read. I grew up watching B movies, made for TV movies, and reading comic books, which influenced me as much as authors whose work I admire. Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, and Dan Curtis certainly shaped my view of storytelling as much as Stephen King did.
3. What’s the greatest moment in your career?
I refuse to answer that question as phrased on the grounds that I may incriminate myself. Writing Desperate Souls, the second book in The Jake Helman Files, and Tortured Spirits, the fourth book, and directing Slime City Massacre were the most satisfying creative experiences I’ve had. With each of those projects I thought, “This is really working, this is really turning out to be what I want it to be; I’ve realized my vision.”
4. What can you tell the readers about your latest movie Model Hunger?
It’s not my movie; James Morgart wrote it and my friend Debbie Rochon directed it. I was the Line Producer and First Assistant Director, which means I put the show together and labored to keep the trains running on time. I worked fifteen hour days on location, then went home and worked from there, and picked up actors from the airport at 1:00 am and dropped them off at the train station at 4:00 am – thankless work, but I look forward to seeing the final film, because that’s what it’s all about. The film has a great cast and Debbie got extraordinary performances from them: Tiffany Shepis and Lynn Lowry set the bar.
5. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The World According to Garp by John Irving.
6. Do you prefer writing a series of novels or stand alone novels, and do you have any future plans for Jake Helman?
I prefer writing a series, because I enjoy long form storytelling, like The Wire, Breaking Bad, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like developing subplots that carry on over several books, and the sense that I’m building up to something really big. Johnny Gruesome was a standalone novel because the concept didn’t warrant additional tales – it was a complete story, a love letter to EC Comics and the horror films of the 1980s. The Frenzy Way was supposed to be a standalone, but I wrote one sequel, The Frenzy War, and expect to write at least two more, because the concept warrants further exploration. Writing The Jake Helman Files gives me the greatest pleasure, and the greatest satisfaction. The fourth book, Tortured Spirits, will be out in October; I’m contracted for the fifth, and I have nine planned. After that, we’ll see.
7. What current writing projects are you working on?
I’m writing The Julian Year for Medallion Press. It’s the first TREEbook, which stands for Timed Reading Experience E-book and utilizes time-triggered branching technology to tell multiple storylines and variations on those storylines. There’s never been anything like it. I made things difficult for myself by choosing an epic story concept, so readers will definitely get their money’s worth! This is an epic story, a horror premise that evolves into an end of the world scenario. Writing it has been a real challenge, but I thrive on challenges.
8. You have many heavy metal references in Johnny Gruesome? Do you like to listen to music while you write and what are some of your favorite bands?
There’s heavy metal in Johnny Gruesome because I wrote the screenplay the book is based on when I was eighteen, and when I wrote the novel as an adult in his thirties, I made it an ode to my teenage years. I don’t listen to metal except for the occasional Ozzy song on a classic rock station. I’m more of a Beatles guy! When I write, I listen to a lot of soundtracks: The Omega Man for The Jake Helman Files; Cat Peopleand Conan the Barbarian for The Frenzy Cycle; and Jeff Wang’s War of the Worlds for The Julian Year. There’s a great rock CD based on Johnny Gruesome, by the way, created by friends of mine.
9. How did you first get involved with movies?
I attended film school for one year, then dropped out because I didn’t like making short films, and because the administration replaced the screenwriting class with a remedial English class that was a waste of my time. I wanted to learn how to make features, and I wrote the screenplay for Slime City right out of school, then worked as the Production Manager on I Was a Teenage Zombie and learned how to put a low budget film together. I directed Slime City at the age of 21, four years after I moved to NYC to go to film school.
10. If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
My wife and my daughter, for sure, then three of my best friends. I’m not a star fucker, and I’d choose good, genuine company over that of any celebrity, living or dead. Who wants to spend dinner kissing someone’s ass?