1. What inspired your bigfoot-like creatures in Blood Born?
Blood Born started with a question: what would be a good metaphor for a virus scaled up to the macro size–that is, instead of microscopic organisms in our blood, they’re creatures as big as you and me?
I’ve always been fascinated and a little sickened(!) at the idea of little animals attaching themselves to a healthy cell and then inserting their own DNA to hijack its machinery. The infected cell then produces a zillion more copies of the virus until it blows up and dies.
Likewise, the monsters in Blood Born are serial rapists who impregnate every woman they assault. The women rapidly come to term and then give birth to more monsters, dying in the process. The monsters grow up in a matter of days before finding more women to rape.
Aside from that, my inspiration for the monsters’ appearance was my cats. No big mystery there, those things are killers! And it was my wife’s idea to call them “Beltway Bigfoots.” The DC media, in covering a disaster of this magnitude, would almost certainly come up with a similar, catchy name. I’m reading up on Jack the Ripper right now for a new project, and it has reinforced the notion that the marketing of a tragedy is everything to the media. Before someone mailed in a letter purportedly from the killer and signed it “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” the newspapers called the Whitechapel killer “Leather Apron.” They sold a lot more copies once they embraced the JTR name.
2. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Dear God, what a nightmare. Just one book? I love filet mignon, but I couldn’t imagine eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the remainder of my days. I suppose I could survive on the same book if I also had a short-term memory disorder where I forgot the book’s contents immediately after reading it. That way, it would be fresh every time. Maybe Replay by Ken Grimwood would be appropriate. I love that book.
The more interesting question to me as a writer is how did I wind up in this predicament? Am I on a deserted island or alone on an interstellar space ship where there’s only one book to read? Maybe I’m the victim of a miscarriage of the criminal justice system, and this is my punishment. Would I go insane and imagine the book was talking to me, or that every day its contents changed? Excuse me, I’m going to go write this down. . . .
3. Blood Born has a World War Z scenario in a smaller scale. If the world as we know it were to end, how would that happen?
Sadly, the world as we know it will most likely end–or at least end for human habitation–through ways we can already guess. Without sufficient political will for sound environmental policies, it’s conceivable our food chain will continue to slowly erode from the bottom due to manmade pollution. That, or a big, godamighty asteroid will wipe us out, in which case Cthulhu will merely chuckle at our supposed politics.
I touch on this topic in my new book, The Seventh Equinox, coming this fall from Raw Dog Screaming Press. In it, a demigod called the Hunter must complete an ancient ritual of environmental renewal, or the planet will slowly die. “Global warming, beehive Colony Collapse Disorder and the destruction of the food chain, rising rates of cancer and premature births–it’s all just the beginning,” he warns. The solution, of course, involves a giant bear and a lot of sex.
4. Who is your favorite writer?
This is a tough one for me, because my tastes are always changing. Inevitably, it’s the writer whose book I just finished reading, provided the book kicked ass. Joe Hill’s new novel, NOS4A2, nails it squarely between the butt cheeks. Man, that was a good read. His father isn’t too shabby, either.
5. You have been involved in a number of writing projects including novels, short stories, screenplays, radio plays, and theater productions. Which is your favorite form to write for?
It’s a toss up between novels and screenplays. I have a lot more experience with novels, but there’s something about writing for the screen that really gets me jazzed, maybe because I’m still a novice at it. Going to a new format is like switching between different types of poetry forms that prescribe precise formulas for syllables and rhyming. By observing the creative restrictions of something, it paradoxically sets you free.
6. Is there an overall theme to your writing?
I used to think so, but now, after twenty-plus years, I haven’t a clue. I’ve written stories that range from a serious study of the mid-Atlantic slave trade (short story “Middle Passage”), to silly horror comedy (the film Dr. Ella Mental’s Mad Lab Picture Show).
But the one thing linking everything together–for me, at least–is that I’m passionate about good stories told well. Stories should be about characters undergoing dramatic changes in their lives. If they’re not going through the most important time of their lives, then why should you bother reading or watching it? If I can always keep that principle in mind, then I know my writing will have power.
7. What made you start writing?
Initially, it was a class assignment in the first grade. How did tigers get their stripes? Well, a tiger walked under a painter’s scaffold, and a bunch of paint buckets fell down on him and painted his coat in dark streaks. I illustrated this incident on the top half of the ruled paper where I told the tale in blocky, penciled letters.
I stuck with it because telling stories gave me a sense of self worth and occasionally gained me attention. And now I continue it because it’s part of who I am. See above: I love good stories told well. They might as well be told by me.
8. Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
I don’t think so, but there are certainly some subjects more uncomfortable than others to write about. Topics that hit home–deaths in the family, danger to children, disease, estrangement–give me restless nights when I write about them. For that reason, however, those are probably my best stories.
9. If you could pick one other author to collaborate with on a novel or story, living or dead, who would it be?
Well, I’d be insane if I didn’t choose Stephen King. What a privilege that would be. Could you imagine what a writer would learn in that situation?
But if King were unavailable and my writer-resurrectionist-collaboration power were still functional, then I would opt to ghost write the autobiography of Jesus Christ. I would need a suitable translator, of course, because I don’t speak Aramaic. How cool would that be: to turn on a tape recorder and just let him talk. I’d follow that up with interviews with all the Apostles and filmings of the miracles, just to round things out. What would I discover? Was he a charlatan and a cult leader, or was he something more? Whatever the answer, I’m sure it would be a life-changing experience . And, not to mention, it would sell an ass-load of books.
10. Which person do you most admire?
This is going to sound cheesy, but after giving this a lot of thought, I have to say it’s my wife of ten years, Deena. Sweet, beautiful, gentle, and intelligent, she always amazes me with her multiple talents. Not only can she paint, but she can program complex websites. She can write, and in short order, I expect she’ll be a successful novelist. She’s mature. She’s a loving mother to our two boys . And she’s as essential to my life as the right side of my body. There are many people I care about, and there are some I even consider role models. But none of them on a day to day basis enrich and sustain me like she does.
Thanks for the interview, Carl. And thanks for reading Blood Born!