Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Interview with author Brian P. Easton

I've mentioned before on both this blog and my facebook page that I'm a big fan of Brian P. Easton's werewolf hunter series comprised of two novels titled, in order, Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter, and Heart of Scars. (Click the link if you'd like to purchase a copy through Amazon.)If you haven't checked them out yet, both novels get my highest recommendation for horror fans. Be warned, however: These novels are honest-to-God, no-holds-barred horror, and they are NOT for the faint of heart.

For clarification, the main character's name in both novels is Sylvester Logan James. So if you see SLJ, that's what we're talking about.

Now, as Arnold said in Conan the Destroyer, ENOUGH TALK!

J: Where did you get the idea for the SLJ series?

B: That’s a question that doesn’t have just one answer because the idea itself and the character both evolved from a youthful fascination with classic horror. A host of influences helped shape the story into what it is today. My inspirations ranged from my Dad and our mutually admired border-hero Lewis Wetzel, to an obscure scene on an episode of Laverne and Shirley, circa 1977.

As a kid I saw lots of vampire killers in movies and comic-books, but there was a conspicuous absence of werewolf-hunters. I decided to remedy this apparent oversight by creating one of my own, but Sylvester Logan James would be barely recognizable in his earliest incarnation. The character who would become SLJ first starred in my home-made comics as the Werewolf Stalker, and then graduated to a career in typewritten short stories. I started taking the character seriously around 1998 when I gave him a literary makeover in When the Autumn Moon is Bright, which would become Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter. To this day I have six unpublished, SLJ based manuscripts that bear little resemblance to the AWH storyline.

J: What has your experience working with Permuted Press been like?

B: I couldn’t have asked for better people than Permuted Press; they’re an exceptionally author-friendly, forward-thinking outfit. I have nothing but good things to say about Jacob, who has the best interests of his authors at heart. I’m fortunate to be associated with him and such a talented stable of writers.

J: How has becoming an author changed your life?

B: I was self-published for a number of years and I can tell you at this point it’s mostly bragging rights. Naturally, if you’re a writer being published is a big deal; just ask one who isn’t. I mean tell someone at a party you’re a writer and they’ll probably tell you about poems they’ve written or the idea they had for a novel back in high school. On the other hand, if you say you’re a published author you might get a, “Oh, really?”

In the life-changing department I’d like to say being an author has made me independently wealthy and won me national acclaim, but I can’t so you might want to ask me again when I’m a NYT bestseller.

J: How do your family and friends feel about your choice of genre?

B: My friends love it, but of course you can pick your friends can’t you? Family is a much harder sell, because they’ve probably put up with our ramblings since adolescence and won’t see us for the polished wordsmiths we’ve become. My family isn’t much in the way of horror and I don’t think they understand its appeal, so for the most part I get an occasional “atta-boy” but that’s about all. Truthfully, that’s enough because while they might not fully appreciate what I write, they’ve always been supportive. In fact, each of my parents played key roles in my decision to be a story-teller. When I was only 10 my mother gave me her old typewriter on which I wrote my very first stories, and thus instilled in me a love for writing. My father’s attitude towards the concept of werewolves is the very foundation of SLJ, and defined my interpretation of “The Beast” once and for all.

J: What do you do when you’re not writing?

B: Basically, I chase a toddler all over hell’s creation. I’m also teaching him to hunt werewolves and cast silver bullets in between periods of wiping the snot off his cheeks. Other than that I’m a bit of a firearm and motorcycle aficionado, though the seldom get a chance to indulge both interests at once. I also dabble in graphic design and have created a line of horror/sci-fi themed labels which I put on antique bottles and sell on Ebay around Halloween.

J: What can your fans expect in 2013? Any new releases coming up?

B: This year with a bit of luck I’ll be able to finish The Lineage, which is the third and probably last installment in the AWH series. I’ve been working on this thing for what feels like way too long, but when you add a 20-month old to a pre-existing penchant for working slowly I guess that’s bound to happen.

My buddy Miles Boothe has edited a nice anthology series for Pill Hill Press called Legends of the Monster Hunter, to which I’ve contributed a Foreword and other supplemental material. The first two books, Leather, Denim and Silver and The Trigger Reflex are available right now and the third installment Use Enough Gun should be out sometime this year. There are some real gems in these books that are worth the purchase price all by themselves.

J: Would you ever consider writing a zombie novel?

B: I don’t think so, it’s not my niche and I have no vision for it. I’d have to have a real epiphany of an idea to even consider it. You know, something that’s never been done in a field where almost everything’s been done? No, I believe I’d write another kind of monster novel first, maybe an Aztec mummy or something.

J: Who do you think could play SLJ in a movie? Any other cast picks for characters from your novels?

B: My dream cast is pretty well established for a movie treatment: Gillian Anderson as Tanya Clemons, Gabriel Byrne as Daniel Rogier, Christopher Walken as Diego etc., but SLJ has always been harder to cast. It’d have to be someone with a talent for portraying anger and grief with equal enthusiasm; someone who is masculine without being loutish and visually striking without being pretty. When I think about movie characters who with these traits I settle on Bill the Butcher (Gangs of New York) and Nathaniel Bumppo, aka Hawkeye (Last of the Mohicans), both as played by Daniel Day Lewis. Sam Eliot would also be my first choice to play Foster, SLJ’s father.

J: Do you have any book or movie recommendations for your fans?

B: You know, tastes vary so wildly from person to person that I’m always hesitant to suggest books and films to others. However, there is one book I would recommend to anyone interested in tales of violent redemption and that’s Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece, Blood Meridian. To say the least it’s not for the faint of heart or the easily befuddled, but for me it’s become the gold standard.

In these days when horror seems to have been watered down or glitzed to the nines, I think it behooves those of us with an abiding interest in the genre to re-visit its roots and the classic authors who pretty much defined it. I think reading the old grandfathers like Jacobs, Derleth and Blackwood could give us some perspective and re-calibrate our palate for what bumps in the night.

As far as movies go I’ll just drop a couple titles that I think are underrated. Ravenous (1999), starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle combines my two favorite genres (horror and western) into a bloody, funny and downright cool-as-hell romp through the American wilderness with a genuine Windigo. Also, if you’ve never seen Angel Heart (1987) with Mickey Rourke you’re really missing something as far as I’m concerned.

J: What would you tell anyone who hasn’t read your books yet to get them to give it a shot?

B: All I can promise is that my monsters don’t sparkle and my protagonist doesn’t gratuitously take off his shirt. My werewolves aren’t romanticized, bare-chested love-puppies and my hero only looks like the “good guy” because of the company he keeps. I paint a hard-boiled, sometimes noir world of teeth on the floor and hair on the wall and make no apologies for it. I strive to make the existence of werewolves as realistic as possible, and since I see them as demonic creatures I’m going to take you to places that are pretty messed up.

I’d also add that these stories have a larger tale to tell than just a vengeance-seeking anti-hero at odds with supernatural monsters. The heart of the series is a running commentary on the effects of hatred on the human soul, but you don’t necessarily have to appreciate that to enjoy the story.