Interview: Bob Fingerman, author of Bottomfeeder and Pariah

It’s October, and for me, that means Halloween is right around the corner, so of course I’m preoccupied with all things scary, including books. So, for the month of October, I’ll be spotlighting authors specializing in thrills and chills, as well as Bram Stoker Award winners, and there might even be some special giveaways in the mix!

To kick off this special series of interviews and giveaways, I’d like to welcome Bob Fingerman to the blog! Bob is very well known for his work in comics, but he also penned the vampire novel Bottomfeeder and the zombie chiller Pariah. He was also kind enough to answer a few of my questions!

You have a background in art and comics, but you’ve also written a vampire novel, Bottomfeeder, and a zombie novel, Pariah, as well as numerous short stories. What made you decide to write the first novel? Is it tough to make the switch in writing styles?
Not really. I’ve always wanted to do not so much straight horror, but work that is horror adjacent. I don’t think of either of my novels as pure horror. They’re much more character studies and that, I think, is pretty much the meat of what I do, generally. But dark. Much darker in those prose books than I’ve ever done in my graphic novels. I think my art style is much more suited to humor, so that’s what I tend to focus on in my comics. At least the ones I’ve drawn myself. The Zombie World miniseries I wrote for Dark Horse, back in ’97, “Winter’s Dregs,” was pretty serious. It was also commissioned as a prequel to Pariah. But the comic series got canceled before I got to do Pariah, and for that I am actually – in retrospect – grateful, because I got to push much harder, darker and deeper in the novel than I would have as a PG-rated, much sorter comic.

As for what made me decide to scrap the art and just write a novel, some of it was pure and some of it wasn’t. The part that wasn’t was seeing others doing it and me thinking I could do as well or better. Competitiveness – which is not a bad thing, per se. The purer part was just loving novels and wanting to finally take the plunge and do it. I love words. I love wordplay and constructing a good sentence. And I love a challenge, and writing novels was definitely new terrain.

Why do you think zombies and vamps are so popular lately, especially in the last 10 years or so?
Eh, lots of people have theories. Some brainier than others; some more pretentious. I don’t know if it’s any millennial terror or any of that. I think they’re just fun toys to play with. And yes, we get to confront our morality and mortality with these toys, but ultimately they’re fun. Although, for whatever strange reason, I seem to go out of my way to make them less fun. Not to read. But my dad did say, “I never saw the downside to being a vampire until I read your book.” Funny quote. Wish I could’ve used it as a blurb. But I did go out of my way to show the downside. And then hopefully made it palatable and enjoyable with lots of dark humor.

How do you think horror has changed since the 80s, when it was especially popular?
Not sure, because I don’t read enough to be a trendspotter. I read a wide spectrum of genres, so I only get samplings of each. In movies I could answer more authoritatively, I think. They’ve generally gotten meaner. The ‘80s was the decade of fun horror. When Leisure Books was still around I read a bunch of their offerings. Maybe it’s more graphic than it was in its depictions of gruesomeness.

What are some of your favorite scary reads?
Dave Wellington’s books are always a pleasure to read. His zombie trilogy is essential reading. Clive Barker, especially the Books of Blood and The Damnation Game. Ramsey Campbell is terrific, as is Joe Lansdale. Brian Keene’s work, too. I’m too old or seasoned or whatever to get scared by books any more, but I remember the thrill of The Damnation Game. I was in my very early twenties and I noticed at a certain point I had curled and hunched as I read that. My whole body contorted with tension. That was great. Invisible Monsters by Palahniuk. Is that horror? Not really, but it unnerved me a bit.

How about movies? Any particular favorites?
Too many to mention. Cronenberg is my favorite, followed by Carpenter and Romero. Before Cronenberg got “respectable,” he was, is and ever will be my evergreen. Session 9, by Brad Anderson. That one is underappreciated. Great movie. Phantasm is a top fave. But too many.

What are you reading now?
Actually, 32 Fangs by Dave Wellington. So, right on topic. And next up is This Book is Full of Spiders, by David Wong. Actually, John Dies at the End might be my favorite “horror” novel of the last decade. But part of the reason is because I’m not sure it is horror. It’s such a crazy hybrid of a book. Can’t wait for the movie. The trailer looks great.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The sequels to Pariah and Bottomfeeder remain in mind, but as to when and if they’ll materialize, not sure. But I’d love to do them.
Totally non-horror-related, but a new, super-deluxe edition of my comic series, Minimum Wage, is coming out in March 2013, from Image Comics, titled Maximum Minimum Wage. It will be the definitive edition, with tons of bonus material and printed oversized, so the art and text will finally have some breathing room. To link it to horror, Robert Kirkman is behind this reissue. He’s a big fan of Minimum Wage and he’ll likely have some content in the book. Maybe the foreword. Not sure. So, if the man behind The Walking Dead is behind this, I think your readers will dig it, too.
Keep up with Bob: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Bottomfeeder: Amazon | B&N
Pariah: Amazon | B&N

About Bob Fingerman(via his website):
Best known for his comic series Minimum Wage (Fantagraphics Books), as well as the graphic novel White Like She (also Fantagraphics), Fingerman’s contributions to the world of comics have been many and varied.

In 1984, while still in attendance at New York’s School of Visual Arts, he produced work for the legendary Harvey Kurtzman (creator of Mad magazine and Playboy’s “Little Annie Fanny” as well as the recently collected Humbug) on the short-lived young readers anthology NUTS! At the same time Fingerman produced a series of parodies exclusively for the European market, which ran in such periodicals as France’s L’Echo Des Savanes and Spain’s infamous El Vibora.

Fingerman toiled in the disparate realms of kiddy satire, men’s magazines, sci-fi and illustration, producing work regularly for Cracked, Al Goldstein’s infamous tabloid Screw, Penthouse Hot Talk, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and High Times. He also worked for The Village Voice, Business Week and other periodicals.

In the ’90s he decided to focus on comics, doing a stint on the The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as several adult comics titles. He also created covers and short stories for Dark Horse Comics, and DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.

In 1993 Fingerman wrote and drew his first graphic novel, White Like She, a social satire about a middle-aged black man whose brain is transplanted into a white teenage girl’s head.

Upon completion of that purely fictional work Fingerman decided to turn his attention inward. The result was the semi-autobiographical series Minimum Wage, which charted the bumpy relationship of Rob Hoffman and Sylvia Fanucci, and was collected and extensively reworked as the graphic novel, Beg the Question (Fantagraphics Books).

Fingerman has broadened his palette, turning also to prose. His darkly humorous vampire novel, Bottomfeeder (M Press), was published in early 2007. Recent projects are Connective Tissue (Fantagraphics, May 2009), a trippy illustrated novella, and From the Ashes (IDW), a “speculative memoir” featuring Bob and his wife Michele in post-apocalyptic NYC. In 2010 the collected edition of From the Ashes was released, followed by his second novel, Pariah, from Tor (mass market edition released in 2011). He also had a short story in the popular zombie anthology The Living Dead 2 (Night Shade Books, October 2010). Next up is a deluxe reissue of his defining comic series, called Maximum Minimum Wage, from Image Comics (March 2013).

He is married to his lovely wife, Michele, and lives in New York City.

Comments are closed