Interview: Justin Bienvenue Releases THE WAX FACTORY

Justin BienvenueJustin Bienvenue considers himself to be an author and poet. He lives in the New England area and became interested in writing in 2005 but has been writing on a more professional level since 2010. He says, “I mainly write horror and poetry although I’ve also written westerns and a crime thriller, so I try writing in other genres as well.”

Tell us about your latest project, Justin.

My latest novel is a gothic horror called THE WAX FACTORY, which is due out on May 31, 2019. It’s about a group of college students who, as part of a school project, go to an old factory for a tour. Along the way they realize this isn’t a normal tour, and the deeper into the factory they go, the more sinister and dark things become. Soon they are fighting for their lives and the project doesn’t seem to matter anymore. It’s the first part of a three-book series.

The Wax Factory by Justin BienvenueWhat have you published so far, and where?

I have five other published novels that are all published and available on Amazon. There are my two horror poetry books, THE MACABRE MASTERPIECE and THE MACABRE MASTERPIECE: REPRESSED CARNAGE. I’ve also written another poetry book, LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES and then a western horror, A BLOODY BLOODY MESS in the Wild Wild West and a crime thriller, OPIUM WARFARE. I’ve also written short stories and poems in over fifteen anthologies.

What is your writing schedule like? Do you write every day?

My writing schedule is pretty wide open, and I can write anytime I want. I try to write every day whether it’s a story, poem, or just a blog post, but sometimes I admit I become too lazy or end up doing other things. When I do write, I want to make it count, so when I write I devote all my time to whatever piece I’m working on.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I read a lot of Shakespeare in high school, and while the rest of the class seemed bored and uninterested, I was intrigued. Shakespeare is one of those people who you either love or hate. Some of his works really spoke to me and still resonate with me today. He practically had his own language and his works really speak to people and have a lot of power, so since I started reading Shakespeare, it was then I learned early on that language had power.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous. Is that true for you?

Yes and no. I’m not famous; people don’t come up to me on the street asking for an autograph, and I’m not a bestselling author, but when I tell people I’m an author or that I have published books, they seemed pretty surprised. In some ways it is glamorous because I get to do what I enjoy, what I love, and being an indie author gives me one hundred percent creative control, and it’s all me. So being published is even more of a great feeling. At times it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as I’m still trying to make it, but glamorous is a good word because at times it feels totally like that.

What does literary success look like to you? Do you think you’ve attained it?

Literary success to me is partly what I wrote above. It’s becoming a best-selling author, having people recognize you and it’s making a lot of money off your books and having a big fan base that love you and your work. Do I think I’ll attain it? I want to but do I think I will? Well never say never but I’ll just keep doing what it is I love and do best, writing and if that type of success happens? Great, if not then I can always keep hoping.

Have you read anything that really made you think differently about fiction?

To be honest not really. I may write but I’m not much of a reader. When I started writing and became a published author I found a new appreciation for reading but it’s died down as of late and I haven’t read many of the classics or beloved fiction that most people swear by. Perhaps I will come across such a book when I decide to read, but so far, no.

What was your hardest scene to write?

I don’t think I’ve had any scene that was hard to write. I write whatever pops into my head. I map and plan it out before writing or write on the spot, and if I feel it’s unworthy, I delete it. I guess fight scenes at times have been hard to write just because it’s hard to really use the right words to explain what’s happening without it sounding like a fight in the 1960’s Batman TV show. I want to be describing the right things but I don’t want to use lackluster words or go over the top with it, so fight scenes are hard and challenging at times. Also love and sex scenes just because that’s not my type of genre, so that would be hard to write if I actually wrote such things.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Yes, they are very supportive of my career. My mother enjoys all my work although it may be because she’s my mother and not just because she liked horror. They know I work hard and I’m really trying, and they know how creative I am, so they are supportive and hope the best for me.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

My detail in describing things and my dialogue. I wouldn’t say I was bad at dialogue but it wasn’t my strong suit. I feel I’ve improved on that aspect and am getting better the more I write. Also describing things. I had a tendency in the past to either not write about something enough or too much, so now I have found a good balance.

If given the opportunity to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?

I can change anything in my books right now if I wanted to and nobody would really know unless I told them. I stick by what’s already been written and I believe in it and believe my audience will enjoy it. I’ve thought about changing small things, but that’s my own little issue. I’m proud of the work I have written and put out there.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The marketing that comes after! Lol. Don’t get me wrong, writing has its issues such as sticking with the topic you want to write about, writer’s block, but the thing nobody tells you is that you have to market your book after. Not only did you write it, but now you have to get people to see that your writing is good enough for them. I would also say I have an issue with commas that I’m really trying to fix.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

Planning what I’m going to write; the basics seem to come easy to me. By this I mean I have an idea in mind and I get started right away and for the most part I’m able to think and create without experiencing the dreaded writer’s block. Creativity and inspiration in writing come easy to me.

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?

As I said I don’t read much but when I do read, I have my favorite authors like everyone else. I like Edgar Allan Poe, Rod Serling, Elmore Leonard, David Haynes, Vincent Hobbes, and Bettina Melher.

Justin’s website is http://jbienvenue.webs.com/
Follow him on Twitter @JustinBienvenue

Interview: Matthew Brockmeyer Releases UNDER ROTTING SKY

I recently interviewed horror writer Matthew Brockmeyer. He lives in the redwoods of Northern California and has been writing about all of his life, although the path to making a career out of it, he says, has been a long one. “I write dark fiction and horror, usually with a both literary and transgressive edge to it.”

Under Rotting Sky by Matthew BrockmeyerTell us about your latest project. What’s it about?
Under Rotting Sky is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the past four years, including previously published tales and new work. It’s a good example of who I am as an artist, for it really runs the gamut from literary fiction to historical fiction to classic horror to extreme horror and splatterpunk.

What else have you published, and where?
I have one novel out: Kind Nepenthe, a ghost story set in the far back hills of Humboldt County. It’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim and done pretty well. I’ve had short stories published all over, in anthologies, magazines, journals.

What are you working on currently?
I’m working on a new novel about a young runaway punk-rock girl who falls into a cult of blood-worshiping pornographers. It takes place in San Francisco in the early 1980s.

Kind Nepenthe by Matthew BrockmeyerDo you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both, actually. I’d like to have each of my works stand on their own, but there are connections that run through them. Most of my stories take place in Northern California, so there is always an interconnection of place. But there are also recurring characters as well. Like the work of Irvine Welsh and Louise Erdrich, all the stories take place in a shared world.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think it really did, honestly.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
Hmmm, interesting question. I want the story to be clear. I don’t want readers confused, but at the same time I like to drop red herrings and have some misdirection, the way a magician will divert your attention for a moment during a trick. Surprises and twists are great, but clarity is extremely important as well. It’s a balancing act, I suppose.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do pretty exhaustive research. I’ve written a couple of historical fiction stories and became a member of the historical society, visited local history museums, sought out experts. I’m a voracious reader and will search out books on particular subjects, both fiction and nonfiction. I also love documentaries. I’ve been having a blast researching the early punk scene of San Francisco for my new novel.

What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I find myself writing about kids and childhood a lot, but I’m also a parent so a lot of that comes from there. I’m also obsessed with subcultures, hippies, punks, beatniks, goths, back-to-the-landers and cults of sorts.

How do you select the names of your characters?
Oh, I have some fun there. I have some wild character names: Coyote, Calendula, Diesel, Slug, Garbage, Roach, Eight Ball, just to name a few. I like nicknames that stand out and are unforgettable. But I also like to juxtapose names, for instance in my novel Kind Nepenthe, while most of the characters have crazy names, the main protagonist is simply Rebecca, because I wanted to show that she was lost in this crazy world.

Sometimes the names I choose are references to books I love; sometimes the names just have a great ring to them. Dickens always had the greatest names: Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Pip, Fagan, Artful Dodger. He even had a Master Bater!

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I usually read them, but it’s all subjective, so I don’t take bad reviews badly. People either like things or they don’t. It’s just the way it is; nothing is universally liked. Positive reviews are an affirmation, though, so they’re nice. You’ve got to have really thick skin to be an artist and put your work out there.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
White bread and soda pop.

What is your favorite childhood book and why?
As a wee child Where the Wild Things Are. The theme of releasing your inner beast is one I return to often. I see it really as a werewolf story.

From my teen years, Lord of the Flies. It’s really a horror story. It’s an amazing look at the ease in which humanity falls into tribalism. The scene with the talking pig’s head on a stake is so surreal and wonderfully grotesque. Extremely well-defined characters. That enigmatic ending. Just a fabulous story.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you and your work?
Although I like to entertain, I also strive to say something about our existential nature and what it means to be human. But while many of my stories are nihilistic, I’m actually a pretty positive guy. Many times I am literally writing out my worst fears, which is why some pretty horrible things often happen. In the end it’s just a wild rollercoaster ride.

You can connect with Matthew Brockmeyer at his website: http://www.matthewbrockmeyer.com

Kind Nepenthe on Amazon


Interview: Christopher Conlon Releases ANNABEL LEE

I recently interviewed Christopher Conlon, prolific author, poet, and winner of the Bram Stoker Award.

Christoper, tell us about your new novel, Annabel Lee.
Annabel Lee stems from my lifelong love of Edgar Allan Poe. He was my first favorite writer, from virtually the moment I discovered his work when I was eleven or twelve. For several years I was all but obsessed with him, reading every word of his I could find—even things like his literary criticism, which I couldn’t really understand, and yet I loved the way he used words. “Annabel Lee” was my first favorite poem, which ignited a love of poetry I still have more than forty years later. My novel is narrated by Annabel Lee herself—telling her own story, in her own words. It turns out that Poe got a lot of things wrong! My Annabel tells the true tale.

What have you published so far, and where?Annabel Lee by Christopher Conlon
Lee, I have a website at http://www.christopherconlon.com, where interested parties can check out my bibliography. I’ve done something north of twenty books, the best known of which are He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson, which was a genre bestseller and won the Stoker Award, and my novel Savaging the Dark, which Booklist placed in their list of the ten best horror books of the year and Paste Magazine called one of the fifty best horror books of all time. I’ve worked with a lot of the major players in the horror field—Tor, Cemetery Dance, Dark Regions—and had work in anthologies like Masques V and magazines like Dark Discoveries. So I’ve been around for a while.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, how long you’ve been writing, what kind of fiction you like to write.
I’m from the Central Coast of California originally, but I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for the past twenty-nine years. In all that time I’ve been writing. I began with my own homemade comic books when I was five or six and graduated to prose fiction around the time I discovered Poe and then The Twilight Zone, my other great formative influence. Most of my fiction has a “weird” edge as a result, though I’ve written mainstream and literary fiction too, not to mention poetry.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I’d have to say the eighty dollars or so that I used to by a Sears portable typewriter when I joined the Peace Corps in 1988. It caused some problems occasionally with airport security people, but I used that little machine all throughout my time in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. I wrote all my first published poems on it. I was the only Peace Corps Volunteer in the entire country with his own typewriter—it just wasn’t something people brought along from the U.S. But it kept me writing throughout the whole experience.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Well, this answer could go into some dark places, since both my parents were drunks—my mother died of cirrhosis when she was forty-nine and my dad was arrested for driving under the influence at least twice that I know of. They certainly said any number of things to me that proved language had power, and in a way I think I’m still recovering from some of them. But I discovered that I could also fight back with words—and I did so, through my writing. Maybe I’m still doing that, I don’t know.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I’ve never based a character on a real person. I might use some aspect of a real person as part of a character—a habit of speech they have, say. But why base characters on people I know instead of using the most powerful tool in the whole writer’s toolkit—my imagination?

What does literary success look like to you? Do you think you’ve attained it?
Hmmm. Interesting question. There are the obvious material signs of success, which for the most part I have not attained. My income as a writer isn’t large, nor is my readership. On the other hand, my books get published, they’re generally very well reviewed, and I’ve even received an award or two. Is that success? Some days it feels like it is. Other days, no.

Have you read anything that really made you think differently about fiction?
When I was in my early twenties I discovered the fiction of Truman Capote, who definitely made me rethink the possibilities of fiction. I’d never read any of the so-called Southern Gothic writers, and his way with language was almost as potent, and as revelatory, as Poe had been for me a decade earlier. Any horror reader should be familiar with Capote’s stories “The Headless Hawk,” “Miriam,” “Shut a Final Door,” “A Tree of Night”… and of course his great nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

What was your hardest scene to write?
Generally speaking, I don’t find writing hard. Once I’m going on a project I rarely get stuck for any significant period of time. But I’ll admit that there was one scene in Annabel Lee that caused me fits because I simply couldn’t figure it out. I had my heroine in a dramatic situation from which she needed to escape, but I just could not figure out any way for her to do it. I was writing on the book day after day, coming closer and closer to that pivotal scene and still not knowing what would happen! Well, the clouds parted at last, and it came to me in a rush only a day or two before I had to write it. The writing itself, once I had the approach to the scene, wasn’t difficult.

Does your family support your career as a writer, Chris?
Oh, sure. My wife reads all my work. It was a different story when I was young—my parents definitely did not support the idea of this weird kid writing all these stories and sending them off to magazines that always rejected them. I got no support at all from them. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
I’m not sure what a grammar Nazi is. Is someone who points out an error a Nazi? I don’t know. I try the best I can with grammar, but I make mistakes—which I usually discover upon reading through a brand-new printed and bound copy of one of my books!

How often do you write?
Not as often as I used to. When I was in the Kalahari Desert thirty years ago I wrote every morning in the pre-dawn hours, before I went off to my job teaching at a secondary school there. Now it’s more sporadic. Most of my writing nowadays I do in the summertime.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
The same thing that’s the hardest about any regular disciplined activity—getting started each day. Once I’m going, though, I just go.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
Having ideas. People who aren’t writers always think that ideas are the big thing. They come to somebody like me and say, “I have this great idea for a story!” and generally want me to write it and for us to split the proceeds. But any idiot can have an idea, and many idiots do. The idea is the least of it. It’s how the idea is fleshed-out, developed, written. That’s the real work.

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Lee, I would be extremely dubious of any “writer” who said that he or she didn’t read much. Reading is all! It’s everything. It’s the foundation of all the writing any writer will ever do. For me it’s Poe, as I’ve mentioned, and Capote, and Tennessee Williams, all the Southern Gothics, along with the Twilight Zone crew—Serling, Matheson, Beaumont and the rest. Joyce Carol Oates. The early Bradbury. But also different types of writers—I’ve read all twenty-three of Anita Brookner’s quietly beautiful novels of British middle-class life. H.G. Wells, George Gissing, W. Somerset Maugham. James Baldwin. Proust, Turgenev, Chekhov. Science fiction guys—Asimov, Pohl, Clarke, Simak. Just all sorts of things, really. And I haven’t even mentioned poetry! But that’s what I’d tell anyone who wants to be a writer: Write, yes, but for God’s sake read. Start reading and never, ever stop.

I had to agree with Chris on this reading point, and I enjoyed hearing all his answers.

Get Annabel Lee here:

REVIEWS APPRECIATED!

You can connect with Chris at:


Interview: Brian J. Smith

Brian J. SmithI recently interviewed Brian J. Smith, who lives in southeastern Ohio with four dogs that he treat like his children. Brian has been writing since he was thirteen because, he says, “I didn’t have many friends because I was the quiet ‘Stephen King geek.'”

Brian loves horror fiction because he grew up watching slasher movies like Jason and Freddy, but his favorites were always the “bugs-gone-bad” flicks such as Kingdom of the Spiders, Island Claws, and Slugs.

He admits, “I fed myself on a smorgasbord of Tales From the Darkside, Twilight Zone (black-and-white and the mid-90’s), Tales From the Crypt, and Stephen King movies.”

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I want to be original. I’ve always tried to think outside of the box when it comes to my writing. I’ve written a few unfinished novels about zombies and other terrifying things but not vampires and werewolves like writers who came before me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep going no matter what anyone tells you. It’ll take you a long time but you’ve got to keep going. Stay strong and be patient.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
When I published my first Kindle book, Dark Avenues (more about this later), I realized that the process takes a lot of time and patience to perfect. Short-hand first, then pounding it out on my computer, and then the long process of reading it out loud while editing.

What’s your favorite novel that you think is under-appreciated?
A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson. Thompson is known for other novels such as The Killer Inside Me, Pop. 1280, The Grifters and Nothing More Than Murder, but I feel like that A Hell of a Woman doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Those novels are good, but if I hadn’t read A Hell of a Woman, I wouldn’t have been inspired to write my own noir crime novel.

What is your favorite childhood book?
The Berenstain Bears. I also read a lot of comic books, too.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Off Season by Jack Ketchum. His novels were such an inspiration to me. They opened my eyes to a version of horror fiction I never knew existed. Off Season was the visceral, gritty horror novel that got to the core of its subject matter and left a lot of blood on the walls.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
When my sixth-grade teacher told me I gave him nightmares and my parents were telling me to stop.

What inspires you to write?
Anything really. A lot of my short stories have been inspired by something that occurred in my past, whether during my childhood or my teenage years, or between myself and a family member.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I’ve done outlines in the past but I’ve never stuck to them. I end up going off and adding something else later that I wish I’d included the first time. I like this. I’ve been told when you do outlines you put your characters on a leash. Life is full of challenges, and I like challenges.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?
No. I had doubts about starting with a short story collection but then considered that many other authors had started out like this as well.

Three O'Clock by Brian J. SmithHave you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
A lot of times. I went to summer camp when I was ten, and we did all kinds of activities such as fishing and tubing, but one thing I really enjoyed was when we did “headstone rubbings”—putting paper on a tombstone and rubbing with a charcoal stick to get the text. I hope to pick this back up sometime in the future. When I set about writing my novella Dark Avenues, I used headstone rubbings in it, and it worked out perfectly.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
No. I’m a homebody so I don’t even leave the house unless it’s really necessary.

What books and stories have you published, and where?
I’ve published many pieces of short and flash fiction in multiple anthologies and e-zines, two with The Horror Zine, one with Metahuman Press, and I’ve even had a western horror story published as well. My other Kindle books are Three O’ Clock and The Tuckers. My publications are listed on my Amazon author page (see below).

Dark Avenues by Brian J. SmithWhat project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a short story collection that will be released in the fall. Dark Avenues will include the novella of the same name along with eighteen other stories that range from dark horror and other genres. There’s a haunted house story, a zombie story, and a post-apocalyptic story about how love triumphs over death.

You can find Brian’s publications on his Amazon author page at http://amazon.com/author/brianjsmith. Brian is on Facebook under Brian Smith and on Twitter @BrianJSmith13. Visit his website at http://brianjsmith468368465.wordpress.com.

Interviewed in the Madhouse

Horror girl Stephanie Wytovich interviews me at her site, JOIN ME IN THE MADHOUSE.

Go read the exchange and then let me know what your prognosis is…

INCOMING PATIENT: LEE ALLEN HOWARD

Lee Allen Howard Interviewed on BOOK TALK WITH STEVEN JANISZESKI

Animated literary aficianodo Steven Janiszeski interviews me all about books and writing. Check it out for a lighthearted laugh.

Click here to watch the video interview: http://stevenjaniszeski.blogspot.com/2011/08/steven-interviews-lee-allen-howard.html

Book Talk with Steven Janiszeski is produced by Trent Zelazny, author of FRACTAL DESPONDENCY.

Writers, be sure to friend Book Talk with Steven Janiszeski on Facebook. And friend Trent Zelazny—The Writer in Ward Eleven, too!