I’m thrilled to have author John Skipp on the blog. John has numerous editing credits to his name and is also the author of more than 12 novels, not to mention a Bram Stoker Award Winner! John was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and we’ve also got a copy of Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, an anthology edited by John, up for grabs!
Please welcome John to the blog!
I distinctly remember reading The Light at the End when I was a teenager and thinking I was getting away with something, and it immediately prompted me to attempt to track down everything you wrote.
Thanks! I’m glad you didn’t get caught, cuz they’ll kill you for that shit! (laughs) When I was a kid, I lived for the books, movies, music and art that filled in the blanks on the official whitewashed version of the world. And vowed I’d do my best to honor that lifelong rite of passage.
How do you think horror has changed from its heyday in the 80s, and what do you think of the changes?
1) Horror’s greatest cultural triumph is that it’s spread its impact into every other genre, for both better and worse. A staggeringly frankness with regard to violence, mental illness, and alarming things in general has replaced the genteel mannerisms of the good old days, in everything from crime to westerns to literary to you-name-it, upping the voltage across the board.
Meanwhile, monsters are the go-to metaphors in sexy romance (cuz we’ve all got a little monster in us that’s dying to get laid). Even our cartoons have become blackly-comic salvos of exploding-head festoonery, in ways that would have been unthinkable 20-30 years ago.
The bad news for horror as a genre is that it’s no longer the only place you can go for those kinds of thrills and information. But that just means you gotta step up your game. This is, in many ways, a good thing.
2) Past that, my favorite change is the rich influx of powerful female voices. It broadens the map by roughly 51%, and takes the boy’s locker room tang out of the air.
I’ve published some amazing women over the past couple years: books by Laura Lee Bahr (Haunt), Violet LeVoit (I Am Genghis Cum), Mikita Brottman (House of Quiet Madness), and Jan Kozlowski (Die, You Bastard! Die!), as well as shorts by Kathe Koja, Amelia Beamer, Angela Carter, Joan Aiken, Mercedes M. Yardley, Kim Harrison, Maggie Stiefvater, Mehitobel Wilson, Francesca Lia Block, Charlaine Harris, Justine Musk, Lisa Morton, Poppy Z. Brite, Elizabeth Massie, Danielle Trussoni, Athena Villaverde, Leah Mann, Leslianne Wilder, Livia Llewellyn, Margaret Irwin, Alethea Kontis, Tessa Gratton, Nicole Cushing, Melanie Tem, Alice Henderson, A.C. Crispin, Kathleen O’Malley, Marcy Italiano, and my own daughter, Melanie Skipp.
And in film, I’m very excited about the Viscera Film Festival, showcasing short horror films directed by women. This is a much harder glass ceiling to plow through, as witness the miniscule percentage of female horror directors getting features greenlit. But I can’t wait to see Mae Catt’s first feature, and am psyched for more movies by Kate Shenton, Hadas Brandes, Tyrrell Shaffner, Rebekah McKendrey, Karen Lam, and a couple dozen others I could name. Also loved Danielle Harris’ feature directing debut, Among Friends, which opened the festival this year.
You just won a shiny new 2011 Bram Stoker Award for your anthology Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed! What do you look for when putting together an anthology?
I like to break it up, like a great mix CD. Some fast ones. Some slow ones. Sad ones. Funny ones. Stunningly violent ones. Whisperingly subtle ones. Totally fucking weird ones. All up and down the scale. That’s how you demonstrate the range of the literature.
Past that, I just have to truly love the story, and/or feel that it nails its part of the equation just right.
What do you like to see in a good horror novel?
I wanna be gripped from the opening paragraph, and not let go of till the punch of the last. I wanna go on a nightmare road trip with a firm, knowing hand at the wheel. I want surprises. I want my ass kicked. I want it to be great, and deliver as promised. I want to fall in love.
What makes you want to set aside a book in frustration?
In a word: tedium. The second I get bored, and start to skim, that book is in serious trouble. Redundancy – saying the same thing over and over – gets it tossed to the floor with a resounding thwunk. Predictability. Lack of passion or forethought. Shallowness. Joylessness. Pomposity. Cliched half-assery. Disrespect for the reader’s intelligence. Padding. Padding. Padding. Any and all wasted words.
There are 1,001 ways to screw the pooch. But bottom line? The worst thing a book can do is make me feel like I’m wasting my time. (Important note: genuine fun is not a waste of time!)
How about a few of your favorite authors?
Aside from the big list of women above? The authors who’ve had the most formative impact would be Dr. Seuss, William Goldman, Rod Serling, Edgar Allan Poe, John Brunner, John Gardner, Robert Anton Wilson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Joseph Heller, Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Watts, and Cody Goodfellow. Past that, the list of writers I love gets ridiculously long. But I could, indeed, go on all night.
I hear you’re transitioning from novelist to filmmaker? Will you tell us a bit about that?
Sure! This is totally my path, as of now. Bringing wild, provocative, original horror to the screen. Shooting the kinds of low-budget, high-octane movies that I think horror fans might be pining for, and that Hollywood will want to expensively remake almost immediately thereafter. (laughs)
I’m working with an amazing young director/film editor named Andrew Kasch, who I met when he interviewed me for his epic documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm St. Legacy. And we are going to town, with several features in development, and an astounding team of techs, business people, and creatives behind us.
Our latest co-directed short film, Stay At Home Dad (from a jaw-dropping script by Cody Goodfellow) is currently picking up big laughs and awards on the festival circuit. (We just scored Audience Bronze at the prestigious Fantastia International Film Festival last month, and are competing at both Shriekfest and the L.A. Horror Fest over the next three weeks, with more to come.)
On top of that, my latest solo book is Sick Chick Flicks, a collection of fem-o-centric horror screenplays just released in trade paper by Cemetery Dance. These are three of my favorite movies-in-the-making (including Rose: The Bizarro Zombie Musical). But just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what we’ve got planned.
And October 16th sees the release of The Dark, a new novel by Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio, on my publishing imprint Ravenous Shadows. I mention this not just because you should read it, but because – like the rest of the Ravenous Shadows line – it would make an awesome motion picture.
Bottom line: I won’t be writing any new novels anytime soon. My focus is on making films, and editing books. That sounds like plenty to me.
You seem like a pretty busy guy! When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Walking the exquisite hills of Eagle Rock with my dog, Scooby Hamilton. No phone. No nothing but Scoob and the little things that happen around us. Those hour-long moments of quiet peace and equilibrium go a reeeeeal long way toward balancing life. Past that, eating and laughing and enjoying the people I love. Taking in the good shit. What else is there to love?
Keep up with John: Twitter | Facebook
About Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane:
This collection of thirty-eight terrifying tales of serial killers at large, written by the great masters of the genre, plumbs the horrifying depths of a deranged mind and the forces of evil that compel a human being to murder, gruesomely and methodically, over and over again.
From Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs) to Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), stories of serial killers and psychos loom large and menacing in our collective psyche. Tales of their grisly conquests have kept us cowering under the covers, but still turning the pages.
Psychos is the first book to collect in a single volume the scariest and most well-crafted fictional works about these deranged killers. Some of the stories are classics, the best that the genre has to offer, by renowned writers such as Neil Gaiman, Amelia Beamer, Robert Bloch, and Thomas Harris. Other selections are from the latest and most promising crop of new authors.
John Skipp, who is also the editor of Zombies, Demons and Werewolves and Shapeshifters, provides fascinating insight, through two nonfiction essays, into our insatiable obsession with serial killers and how these madmen are portrayed in popular culture. Resources at the end of the book includes lists of the genre’s best long-form fiction, movies, websites, and writers.
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