Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Meet Matt Forbeck

October 25, 2012 - 2:25 pm No Comments

Matt Forbeck took time out from his busy writing schedule to talk to me about his career.

TD: Hi Matt, how about a short intro/bio about you?

MF: Hi, My name’s Matt Forbeck, and I’ve been a full-time author and game designer for the past 23 years. I’ve had countless games and twenty (countable) novels published to date, including books based on Dungeons & Dragons, Guild Wars, and Leverage. I also write the Magic: The Gathering comics for IDW. I’ve won bunches of awards for my work, but I don’t much worry about those. I’m always more excited about my next projects than my last ones.

I live in Wisconsin with my wife and our five kids, including a set of quadruplets. Life is an adventure.

TD: So, tell me about Monster Academy

Monster Academy is a trilogy of young adult fantasy novels set in a kingdom in which good has triumphed over the Great Evil but is still dealing with all sorts of little evils. Case in point, the kingdom has all sorts of young monsters running about that haven’t hurt anyone — yet. Since it’s wrong to harm the innocent, the good king sets up a reform school for them, a place charged with habilitating the monsters so that they can become valuable members of society.

If the kids fail, of course, they face banishment or even execution. They start out with the world stacked against them, and it’s up to them to figure out a way to not only survive but thrive in this kingdom that doesn’t want them around. You can find out more about it on the page for the Kickstarter drive I’m running for it right now.

TD: Rumour has it you plan to write a book a month over the next year. Is this true? If so, how will you balance it all?

It’s a bit insane, but I think I have it figured out. I set up a challenge for myself called 12 for ’12, and with that I’m trying to write a dozen short (50,000-word) novels this year. To help fund them, I broke them up into trilogies that I’ve been running on Kickstarter (a creators crowdfunding website), one at a time. So far, three of them have been huge successes.

We have a few days left in the final drive right now. It ends on Sunday, September 16.

As to how I manage it, I outline the books beforehand, which frees me up to write fast. My outlines are loose, but they give me a map to where I want to go. I regularly write about 5,000 words a day, and I can often top that when I have some momentum.

TD: Carpathia tackled the Titanic historical incident with a horror/comedy slant. Any plans to tackle other historic events?

I love history — it’s such a rich source of ideas — so I have little doubt I’ll return to it again. I don’t know if that will be for a sequel to Carpathia or for an all-new tale, but it’ll happen.

TD: A little birdie tells me you started off in role playing games. Can you tell us about this?

I made my living as a tabletop roleplaying game designer for many years. I wrote books for most of the games publishers in the ’90s, and I even co-founded Pinnacle Entertainment Group and served as its president for its first four years. It’s a great deal of fun, but sadly RPGs don’t have a huge audience, which makes feeding a family of seven with them a real challenge.

That said, I still do a little bit of game design every year. I love it too much to ever abandon it, although I make most of my living from novels, comics, and computer game writing these days. The 12 for ’12 challenge has taken up most of my time this year, of course, and I’ve had a wonderful time with those.

The third 12 for ’12 trilogy was called Dangerous Games, and it’s a trio of thrillers set at Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in the USA. This crosses a few of my passions into the story, and I’m looking forward to setting to work on those soon.

Take care,

Matt Forbeck
matt@forbeck.com
www.forbeck.com

Detachment – David Moody Blog

October 13, 2012 - 2:52 pm 1 Comment

To get you in the mood for Hallloween, I have a guest blog from successful horror author David Moody, who talks about . . .
DETACHMENT
David Moody
How many times have you been watching a movie or reading a book and you’ve found yourself screaming at the characters to not go down a particular dark hallway, or to stay away from a certain locked room? We curse these mindless idiots who stumble around in the dark for our entertainment, almost applauding when they get their inevitable comeuppance. Countless whole franchises are built on the premise that stupid people will be killed. Without these morons there would be no chainsaw massacres in Texas, no nightmares on Elm Street, and Friday 13th would be just like any other Friday down at Camp Crystal Lake.
But you know what? I think maybe we should go a bit easier on these gullible victims, and here’s why: there’s an enormous difference between doing and watching. In the heat of the moment, if it was you with your back to the wall, maybe you’d make the same fatal decisions they do. We’re watching from a distance. We have the benefit of detachment.
Have you ever been caving? Spelunking, some folks call it. I used to love it, back in the days when I had a). spare time and b). no responsibilities. I’d think nothing of suiting up and disappearing down into a hole in the ground with a load of mates for endless hours of crawling, squeezing and climbing through the cool darkness and eerie subterranean silence.
It was only when I got home and thought about what we’d been doing, that I realised how dangerous it could have been, and it was only then – post-event – that the nerves set in.
I remember a particular occasion – I was in the middle of a party of ten or so, and we had to get through a low tunnel to get any further forward. And by low, I mean low, as in crawling on your belly to get through. And did I mention the stream? Picture the scene… (I’m six foot tall and weigh about fifteen stone, by the way): ten similar-sized blokes, facedown, crawling over rock and mud through a passage no more than a metre wide, filled with running ice-cold water, and with just a few centimetres clearance above our heads. You had no choice – once you’d started to crawl, you had to keep going. There was no way of turning back, even if you wanted to – no space to turn around, and people directly behind and in front. I can still vividly remember the frequent banging of my safety helmet on the low rock ceiling above me, and the way my battery pack would often snag and stop me moving forward. I remember the lack of light – only being able to see the soles of the boots of the guy in front of me and a little of the surrounding area, often having to keep my head down because there wasn’t even enough room to look up. I remember the discomfort at the cavern’s lowest points, when the water and low ceiling combined to leave just enough room to keep breathing and drag myself through…
At the time, it was an adrenalin rush, and getting through and out the other side was an enormous buzz. But it was only afterwards that I started to question what the hell we’d just done. I remember getting home and having nightmares about that cave. Even now, many years later, writing about it has made me feel really uneasy because, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m thinking ‘what if?’ What if I’d got stuck? What if someone else had got stuck? What if we’d all been trapped down there? Can you imagine the horror – wedged underground, lamp batteries fading, claustrophobia building, numb with cold, bodies cramped, unable to even stand up… It really doesn’t bare thinking about, and maybe that’s why your mind keeps such thoughts at bay when you’re actually in danger. Dwell on the risks and you’ll start to panic. Start to panic and you’re probably screwed.
Like I said earlier, when we’re watching a movie or reading a book, we have the benefit of detachment. We’re separated from the action and, to an extent, the real emotion. So maybe we should give the protagonists of the horror stories we love a break? They’re running on nervous energy – fight or flight, sink or swim. Mark my words, they’ll feel it later when they stop and look back at what they’ve been through. That’s if they survive, of course!

Dark Asylum

June 8, 2012 - 1:57 pm No Comments

Author: Matthew Cowden
Publisher: Anarchy Books
Page count/Size: Kindle
Release date: Nov 2011
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

According to author Matthew Cowden, who gives a succinct summary of his novel Dark Asylum, the novel is a tribute to the gothic horror novel with the pace and violence of a modern horror tale. It takes place in 1895/1896, in Pittsburgh, PA, in the US.

It tells the story of a governess who is hiding from her dark past with an insane family in a haunted house. She is caring for a mute boy who has had some kind of mysterious trauma in the past. Emily, the governess/ heroine, also finds a hidden journal that was written the boy’s grandpa, Edgar Gaskell. The novel interweaves horrific journal entries with the madness of the Gaskell mansion. There are numerous mysteries throughout the book, murder, a few plot twists, and some extremely dark and savage moments. It has a little bit of everything for the fan of mystery and horror.

All of the character names are derivatives of famous 19th Century writers/characters. The novel, despite its 19th century setting, does contain the odd modern colloquialism which jars a little, and there are some typo errors, however, overall this novel achieves what it sets out to achieve.

Perhaps the most authentic part of the novel is Gaskell’s journal entries, which highlight the horrors of war and also the true nature of evil. For aficionados of the period, there is also a satisfying conclusion to Edgar’s secrets.

Gruesome, visceral and fun, Dark Asylum is worth a look.

Interview

Where did the idea come from?

It is hard to tell you this without giving away the major plot twist of the novel. The main idea had been stewing in my head for some time, but then my sister, Jessica, and I were on a gothic novel reading kick. I was going back to Anne Radcliffe, even bought a copy of The Necromancer by Peter Teuthold. Wow. What a crazy book. Anyway, I decided I would take my “idea” and throw it into a gothic novel. The mansion in the book was inspired by a real-life haunted house in Pittsburgh’s North Side. It had such a wicked history that it caught fire and burned. No one knows how it blew up, but many suspect ghosts were at hand. The insane asylum in my book was also real. It has been ripped down now, sadly.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was in grade school. I always wanted to be a writer. I tried to write short stories and screenplays in my 20’s, but my stuff was too weird, and I needed to work on my craft and live life a little. Once my wife and I had our two kids, I started writing novels. I had a children’s fantasy novel published, Emma McDougal and The Quest for Father Time, a few years back. I am looking into republishing it and finishing the series I had originally intended to write.

Freakshow (out from Anarchy Books soon) sounds good. Tell us about it.

Ah, yes, Freakshow. I see Freakshow as my personal little baby. It all started years back as a film school project. It was originally a screenplay that I had signed an option deal with a Hollywood agent. Nothing ever came out of it, so I then recently decided to turn it into a novel. It is a surrealistic, very dark, often funny, but gross tale of a circus geek who sells his soul to Satan for fame and fortune as a vaudeville ventriloquist and Hollywood star. It takes place in the 1920’s, a ghastly but beautiful tribute to the stage, the circus, and the early days of film. It is filled with laughs, horrific murders, stage antics, love, and numerous cameos. I am so thrilled that Andy Remic over at Anarchy-Books has decided to publish it. There will always be a place in my heart for it, for all the hoops I have had to jump to see this show come to life.

The Casebook of Eddie Brewer

May 26, 2012 - 7:20 pm No Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set and filmed in Birmingham, The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, which premiered in Sutton Coldfield on 22nd April, finds the eponymous Eddie, played effectively by Ian Brooker, investigating reports of supernatural phenomenon in Birmingham.

The film starts with a supernatural encounter at Rookery House, Erdington, and takes the form of a mockumentary with Eddie being interviewed for a news show on the paranormal. Eddie has his own collection of supernatural antiquities, which he has collected throughout the years as a paranormal investigator.

Running at 89 minutes, the length is just right, the humour is particularly witty and there are some suitably creepy scenes too, especially involving a rather disturbing child. I mean, let’s face it. Kids are scary!

Star Ian Brooker took time out from his busy schedule to talk about Eddie’s experiences.

Theresa: Hi Ian, what can you Tell me about the film?

Ian: The film is essentially a mystery-thriller concerning the paranormal. It’s a hybrid of form and content. It’s not strictly a horror movie as it overlaps with other genres: it has humour as well as darkness, but it’s not a comedy-horror either. The humour is natural – fitting with the overall documentary realistic style of the piece. The film starts off quite light in tone but becomes progressively darker as the story develops.

Over the course of a number of weeks, a TV documentary crew follows Eddie Brewer – an old fashioned paranormal investigator as he becomes involved in a couple of disturbing and baffling local cases. He visits a suburban house where a neurotic mother is convinced that a poltergeist has entered her home and that her ten year old daughter, Lucy, is possessed by something malevolent; and a dilapidated Eighteenth Century building, Rookery House, where weird and disquieting noises have been heard in the cellar. As the story develops it becomes apparent that something sinister lies behind the phenomena.

The film is also a character study. A lonely figure, Eddie has not only to contend with sceptics and rivals in his own field who denounce his methods as anachronistic and who try to undermine his investigations, but he is dogged by personal guilt over the death of his wife, Sarah, many years before. By the end of the film, Eddie faces the greatest challenge of his life when he confronts the source of these paranormal manifestations during an all night vigil at the old house. For him it’s not just a matter of belief – it’s a matter of survival.

As well as being about the nature of belief, the film is also about loneliness and loss. Most of the characters are seen in isolation – either in their work environment or in their homes. The relationships are largely dislocated: Eddie is alone but talks to his dead wife, Glenda Blakewell is effectively a single mum bringing up her young daughter, Foster Harbinger never married etc etc. The only married couple in the film appear in a light and humorous scene. Most witnesses to the supernatural in the film are on their own when they see or hear the ghosts – as are the ghosts! Eddie needs to believe. His mission is a personal one.

Although the film is largely about the making of a documentary on the life of a paranormal investigator and Eddie’s hit and miss relationship with the director and the TV crew, it is not exclusively a documentary. The “filmed” docu-footage is only one medium through which the story unfolds. We also have the objective fourth wall, CCTV and Eddie’s own low-tech recordings. The film uses every medium to tell the story. In many ways it uses the tried and well-worn movie convention of mockumentary (Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity etc etc) – although in this case it is not “found footage” – and then subverts it: objective scenes intrude on “documentary” scenes. It will be worth watching out for how much of the paranormal activity in The Casebook of Eddie Brewer is filmed or recorded by the TV crew.

In my opinion the film works on several levels.

Theresa: How did the project go from conception to a fully fledged film?

Ian: Andy Spencer the creator, writer and director of the film developed his ideas over ten years. There was a thirty minute version of the story filmed at Rookery House by Andy as a comedy with different actors back in about 2001. I’ve seen it. Some of the dialogue is the same. You will have to ask Andy the ins and outs of what happened in development over a decade. I wasn’t involved until the late summer of 2010.

An actor friend, Sean Connolly (who plays Mike in the film) was asked by Andy to cast the film for production later in 2010 and I was approached in August of that year to see if I wanted to be involved. I didn’t know anything about the project at that point. However, soon afterwards I was sent the script in draft 4. I was very impressed. For many years I have been interested in the subject of the paranormal and have read nearly every ghost story in English and American literature and real-life cases. So I know quite a lot about the subject and I realised that Andy did too. It was very well researched, the characters were well drawn and convincing, and the story was fascinating. I’ve seen all the classic ghost stories on TV and film but was still disturbed by this story. I said I’d like to do it. I recognised that Eddie Brewer was a wonderful role for an actor, but not having done much work to camera for quite a few years I did not ask to be considered for the role. I found out later that they had all along wanted me to play the part. I accepted the role in September and shooting began at the end of October 2010. We finished principal photography in January 2011. Throughout last year we devised extra scenes which were filmed at Rookery House and were added to the edit. In September of last year we had a test screening at the Audio Suite, Digbeth. The feedback from the audience enabled us to address any issues with the film. I brought in the very talented composer Jamie Robertson (Big Finish etc) to write the score and create the sound design. He’s done a splendid job as I knew he would. His contribution to the finished product is immense. The film edit and sound design were completed in March 2012 and we had our premiere at the Flatpack Festival onMarch 18, 2012.

Theresa: Why did you chooseBirmingham to film?

Ian: Except for one actor – all the cast and crew are based either in or aroundBirmingham. The locations used were houses belonging to friends of the director. Andy has been involved for some years with the committee for the renovation of Erdington’s Rookery House and it was made available to us for filming. Rookery is a marvellous location.

Theresa: Now that you’ve had the premiere and shown Eddie Brewer, what happens to it next?

Ian: The film is being submitted to genre-specific and general film festivals here, inEurope and theUSA.

Theresa: On a personal level, what projects are you currently working on?

Ian: As well as being the lead actor on the film, I am also co-producer. We are involved in marketing the film at the moment. I am also a Ph.D research post-graduate atBirminghamUniversity. My time is divided equally between promoting the film and academic work.

Theresa: Thank you for your time.

So, it appears the future looks bright for both Ian and Eddie.

Having attended the Sutton showing, I recommend genre fans to try to catch it at available film festivals.

Ian: Thank you

Overdrawn of the Dead

April 27, 2012 - 2:36 pm No Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy this informative and witty essay by Jasper Bark, author of Way of the Barefoot Zombie. In his essay Bark explores the appeal of the zombie in terms of economic downturn. This essay, and more like it on the art of writing the zombie, can be found in Zombie Writing!.

Over-Drawn of the Dead
Jasper Bark

The way the zombie has gripped the popular imagination over the last few years has been as unstoppable as an outbreak of the undead. At the same time, we have been undergoing the worst economic downturn in living memory. For me there is an undeniable link between these two facts, one that I looked at in my recent novel Way of the Barefoot Zombie and which I would also like to explore in this essay.

It’s my contention that that whenever the economy takes a nosedive, and social unrest kicks off, then the zombie’s stock starts to soar. To test this theory lets look at the first time the zombie appeared in popular western consciousness.

The zombie was first introduced to the West in the best selling Haitian travelogue The Magic Island, written by the alcoholic adventurer, and Aleister Crowley sidekick, W B Seabrook. This was in 1929 when we were in the depths of the last great depression. Zombies held such a grip on the public imagination that, three years later, independent producers Victor and Edward Halperin brought them to the screen for the first time in White Zombie.

This was 1932 when the international stock markets were at their all time low, people all over the globe were rioting about food and jobs and some soup kitchens had lines nearly a mile long. It’s no surprise then that White Zombie was so popular, it created a horror film stalwart that was rarely off the screen until Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie in 1949.

The 50s and 60s were times of greatly increased prosperity and, with one or two notable exceptions, the zombie pretty much drops out of view for these two decades. It’s only when we hit the civil unrest of the late 60s and the recession of the 70s that we start to get great films like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.

The early 80s brought us another great renaissance in Zombie fiction, kicking off with Dawn of the Dead, a year before the decade started, and culminating in a number of great Italian zombie films, foremost among them Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters and the Gates of Hell Trilogy, not to mention the excellent comic series Deadworld, which is still going today. It also brought us global recession, strikes and a new protest movement.

So it would seem there is a connection between the popularity of walking corpses and the health of the economy. Economist are even turning to the zombie genre to describe the carnage in the world’s financial institutions. Terms like Zombie Bank, a bank that’s effectively bankrupt but kept alive by government bail outs, and Voodoo Accounting, the art of hiding your expenses and inflating your income, are seldom out of the pages of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

So why is it that zombies are so popular during times of economic woe? What is it about these shambling, animated cadavers that appeals to us when we start to feel the pinch in our wallets?

For many people losing their job doesn’t just mean losing their income, it can also mean losing their identity. It stirs up fears of becoming a redundant member of society, with nothing better to do than shamble around supermarkets all day, dressed in rags like, well like a zombie. Those people lucky enough to keep their jobs might feel like the post apocalyptic survivors of your average zombie flick. Desperately trying to carry on with their normal lives while more and more people around them fall prey to the economic holocaust.

I think the appeal of zombies in hard times comes from more than just this simple metaphor though. The power of the zombie as an icon lies in its mutability. The zombie can symbolise many of the things that are wrong with our society and cause it to break down.
To begin with the zombie represented white colonialism’s fear of the rebellious native. Back in 1791 Haitian slaves, led by their Voodoo priests, had revolted against the French and established a free country. This was the first time a western empire had ever been successfully challenged and it sent shockwaves through Europe. The popular image of the evil Voodoo priest raping and torturing innocent white settlers was established.
By the time White Zombie came out in 1932, America was having to admit that its own twenty year occupation of Haiti had failed and these same fears were at the forefront of the American mind. Right up to I Walked with a Zombie, zombies in the movies were mindless black slaves of an invariably white magician. Though they were in thrall to their oppressor, they threatened at any moment to overturn his power and turn on him, like they did in Revolt of the Zombies.

When Romero borrowed a scenario from Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, he not only added the post apocalyptic motif to the genre, he also introduced the theme of social conformity versus the rights of the individual. The American public were bitterly divided over an un-winnable war abroad and popular dissent at home much (much as they are today). Romero used the zombie to capture the neuroses that were bubbling to the surface as America once again struggled to come to terms with its new cultural identity.
In video games like Resident Evil the zombie reinvented itself once again, as the perfect target for a shoot ‘em up. They might look like human beings but they’re actually soulless husks. They’re the hordes of the enemy. The deadly other who is coming kill and convert us just for being the way we are.

So we don’t have to worry about their human rights. It’s okay to blow them away with abandon. It won’t even stain our consciences if we lock them up in detainment camps and torture them for intel because, like terrorists, they threaten us and we can’t identify with them. Therefore they’re not really human.

Zombies aren’t just ‘the other’ though. “They are us” is a phrase that appears in several films by Romero and other directors. The zombie might be seen as a secret reflection of our western society, mindlessly consuming material goods and natural resources as a zombie consumes flesh. Like a zombie in search of prey we overwhelm other cultures and convert them into consumer societies to expand our market. All the while we fear that this endless expansion will inevitably bring about the sort of societal break down that most modern zombie films depict.

Of course there are other themes I haven’t mentioned. During the cold war zombies played on our fears of the deadening economic conformity of communism. Contagion and our fears of a pandemic disaster run through the Return of the Living Dead series and were picked up by Danny Boyle in 28 Days Later.

Maybe the most personal thing that the zombie apocalypse represents to us all however, is freedom. Much as we like to believe we live in a meritocracy where hard work and talent are rewarded, our everyday lives don’t always support this. Many of us have day jobs we don’t enjoy, that don’t fulfill us or our ambitions.

We like to think we live in a free society too, but in times of economic hardship this can also seem less true. No matter what government we vote for, we end up having to pay taxes we don’t want and follow new laws we don’t support. We have to go to a work place we might not like and kiss the ass of a boss we very probably hate. We might not even be able to do the things we want in whatever free time we have left, due to lack of money or opportunity.
So it’s not hard to see why the fantasy of a world where all these things are swept away over night by a ravenous horde of walking corpses is so appealing. I think Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead are arguably the two most popular zombie films for one good reason – they’re both wish fulfillment fantasies.
Who hasn’t wandered round a mall and dreamed of having it all to themselves, of running through every shop and helping themselves to whatever they want with no-one to stop them? Or come to that, camping out in their local pub with all their mates and no bar staff to call time.

What the apocalypse does, in our imagination, is free us from all the restrictions of the every day world. An every day world that is often so oppressive and restricting that the total breakdown of society, at the hands of the undead, actually looks kind of fun in comparison. Especially if we get a lock-in at our favourite pub and as many bar snacks as we can eat.

More than any other icon of horror the zombie has been able to mutate and change so it keeps on reflecting our worst or most hidden fears and desires. This is why the zombie appeals to me as a writer of horror novels and comics.

I like to break new ground in my fiction so I tend to avoid most of the old staples of the genre. The zombie is the only pre-existing monster I’m prepared to work with because I can still think of new ways to use them and fresh fears that they might represent.
That’s not to say that you can’t still do fresh and original things with vampires and werewolves. However vampires and werewolves do still symbolize pretty much the same thing today as they’ve always done. Their costumes might have been modernized but they represent the same primal fears and neuroses that they’ve always done.

And let’s face it, if a werewolf or a vampire ever got into a fight with zombie there is no contest over who would win. The vampire and werewolf could bite the zombie as many times as they like and it would still be a zombie. The zombie, on the other hand, only has to bite them once and they’re a Zompire or a Werebie. (Is it just me, or does a Werebie sounds like a particular perverse type of Furbie?)

For me, the very best horror is about more just the trappings of the genre, more than even fear itself. It’s a way of facing up to those things about our world that are barely faceable, of confronting taboos and saying the things no-one wants to say about the human condition. It works best when it’s about far more than just the fear of death or the threat of a monster.

The mutability of the zombie and they way it keeps reinventing itself makes it a perfect vehicle for stories that do just that. That’s why I find myself coming back to zombies time and again to mine new tales of satire and blood soaked social commentary.
Oh, and let’s not forget that they eat brains. And they never wash. And they always, always win. I mean how cool is that.

If you enjoyed this essay, check out more of Jasper’s work online at: