Saturday, March 29, 2014

Blood and Poop Jokes: an Interview with Rick Gualtieri

Because this blog is as much about what I’m writing and reading (says so, right up there on the banner, yep), I thought I’d take this week’s post to talk a little with one of my favorite authors, Rick Gualtieri, about his horror-comedy series The Tome of Bill, aka the Bill the Vampire books.

Image of Rick Gualtieri

Doesn't LOOK like a guy who'd rip your throat out, does he?
Also, thank god, no sparkly emo crap.


I met Rick through Twitter, and soon after discovered his wonderful books: Bill the Vampire, Scary Dead Things, The Mourning Woods, Holier Than Thou, and Sunset Strip so far in the Bill series. He’s also the author of the horrific Bigfoot Hunters; The Poptart Manifesto, a collection of shorts; and some thoughtful occasional rants on his website, www.poptartmanifesto.com. Here, he’s kindly agreed to let me pick his brain a bit on the juxtaposition of funny and bloody things we both enjoy.

************************

Kris Silva: When you first had the idea to write Bill the Vampire, were you considering a more traditional horror approach at all, or was the comic tone your first choice?

Rick Gualtieri: I envisioned Bill the Vampire as a horror comedy from the very start, but one with serious undertones. In other words, I never saw Bill as slapstick.  The situations he was thrust into were always supposed to be deadly serious with real consequences. It's the characters who create the main comedic focus - spending more time mocking their circumstances than screeching in terror.

KS: Are there other comedy-horror works which influenced you in writing the Tome of Bill series?

RG: From a writing standpoint, there's a lot of urban fantasy out there with comedic elements. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files is probably the foremost example of this. The difference is that in series like these the comedy is a typically an add-on.  For mine I wanted it to be one of the major focuses.  Because of that I'd say film has been a greater influence on me.  We're talking movies like “Ghostbusters,” “Army of Darkness,” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” These are all films that could have been traditional horror with a more straight-laced cast, but instead are played for laughs due to the attitudes of their heroes. 

KS: Those are all great films. I can think of scenes in each that echo the dark humor in your books. However, you also work in a LOT of really...beg pardon ...juvenile silliness. The scatalogical Bigfoot jokes in The Mourning Woods come to mind. Yet those jokes are in the midst of a deadly serious situation. Tension breaker or pure love of silly jokes?

RG: A little of both, but I have to admit that, of all the books I've written, The Mourning Woods is the one most played for laughs.  That's both a positive and negative.  I think it's easily the funniest of the series, but at the same time probably trades off a bit of character development for the sake of the jokes. That's really the fine line I walk with this series: how to keep it humorous without the characters devolving into complete morons.  I am constantly worrying about that balance.  That was one of my biggest fears with Sunset Strip.  It takes place in the same world, but focuses on different characters. The end result was a dark urban fantasy rather than a comedy.  Switching genres in the same world is nerve-wracking because you want people to enjoy the story, but have to accept the reality that many won't because you're not meeting their expectations. 

KS: Do you have a favorite scene or scenes among these influential films which just kills you every time you watch?

RG: Bruce Campbell just utterly kills me up in “Army of Darkness.” He has so many great scenes in that movie it’s hard to pick just one – albeit I am particularly fond of the line, “Good, bad...I’m the guy with the gun.”

Tome of Bill Compendium

The Tome of Bill: Now available in Family Snack Size!


KS: Horror-comedy, or comedic horror, seems to have a more narrow audience than either genre separately. I've always wondered why more people DON'T find the juxtaposition hilarious. For instance, in your books, Bill's coven operates a suicide help line in New York City in order to lure in fresh meals. As horrible as that sounds, it's also deeply funny! Any thoughts on why some people don't relate to that sort of sardonic humor?

RG: All humor is subjective.  That's the reality of writing comedy - you are absolutely guaranteeing that a percentage of the population will find you about as funny as a train wreck.  Trying to appeal to everyone is probably a surefire path to failure, leading to watered down jokes that will offend none and mostly likely earn you a few pained chuckles at most.  I write the types of humor that would make me laugh and hope that I'm successful in targeting it to like-minded people. If I fail...well, one has no business writing comedy if they can't laugh at themselves when they get properly smacked down.

KS: My favorite scenes in your books are the ones with that blend of horror and humor, especially when in the midst of something deadly serious, a desperate joke by one of the characters pops up like an offering to the Humor Gods. In Bill the Vampire, for instance, Bill's backtalk to Jeff, the vamp who turns him, is clearly as much of an instinctual response out of dread as anything else. Bill’s obvious desperation makes it even funnier! The use of a vintage Transformer toy as a holy weapon is hilarious, too, and every geek guy or girl who's ever treasured a mint condition action figure enough to imbue it with its own aura of holiness will definitely cheer Tom during the climactic fight scene!
I know you collect Transformers. Have you ever repelled the undead with one? 

RG: Forget the undead. I’m more worried about my kids getting their hands on them. Vampires would be a vacation.

KS: What are your favorite scenes in each of the Tome of Bill books? The ones you personally found the most fun to write?

RG: I’m fond of any times I get to drop snippets of history into things: vampires at Troy, Beowulf as an Icon, and other stuff like that because it gives me a chance to add some fun backstory to this world.
Specifically, though, I think my two favorite scenes in the series so far were from Scary Dead Things and The Mourning Woods respectively. In the former, it’s Gan’s first meeting with Sally. It sets up their dynamic going forward and I loved introducing a character who could crack Sally’s veneer a bit. Bill’s first meeting with the Sasquatch chieftain in The Mourning Woods is my other favorite. Just visualizing that scene from within the main character’s head quite frankly cracks me up – as sad as it might be to laugh at my own jokes.

KS: That scene IS hilarious. What better time for poop jokes than when you’re in danger of being squashed by a Sasquatch, after all...
What books do you currently have in the works, ready to unleash upon the unsuspecting?

RG: I’m nearly finished with Goddamned Freaky Monsters, book 5 in Bill’s series. Following that I’m working with Tim Greaton on a collaborative story which is shaping up nicely. From there, we’ll see. I have no shortage of ideas in the pipeline, but whenever I try to schedule too far in advance it becomes a near guarantee that I’ll work on something different.

KS: I know you also write straight horror (Bigfoot Hunters) and even erotica. Each of those has its own appeal, certainly; is there a genre you find most comfortable to write in, and is it easy for you to switch between them?

RG: I don’t write erotica, but Cole Vance does. Whether he has any connection to me, I really can’t say. [smiles]
Seriously, I’m probably most comfortable with urban fantasy, but I don’t have much trouble switching to a different genre for a new book. It’s all about getting into the character’s heads. If I can do that then all is well. If I can’t then that probably means it’s not the right story for me to be working on at that moment.


Many thanks to my guest, Rick Gualtieri, whose Bill the Vampire books give hope to geeks everywhere! Rick’s books can be found for purchase on Amazon.



Rick Gualtieri lives alone in a dark, evil place called New Jersey with only 
his wife, three kids, and countless pets to both keep him company and 
constantly plot against him. When he's not busy monkey-clicking out 
words, he can typically be found jealously guarding his collection of 
vintage Transformers from all who would seek to defile them - 
Defilers Beware!
His upcoming works include:
GODDAMNED FREAKY MONSTERS
DEVIL HUNTERS

Visit him at:
Blog - www.poptartmanifesto.com
Facebook - facebook.com/RickGualtieriAuthor
Twitter - twitter.com/RickGualtieri

Or just drop him a line at rickg.author@gmail.com.
Don't be shy. Unlike the creatures in his novels, he doesn't bite. :)



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Because Nothing Is As Sexy As a Consenting Muppet

Which fact I tried heroically to convince Derek Springer of on a recent episode of The Ugly Couchcast . Somehow he didn't seem persuaded. Not even after viewing some of my questionable Muppet erotic art. He wouldn't even LOOK at the hot felted action I tried to send him! Philistine.




Blue Muppets. Not the Grover kind.
Yeah, I went there.


This might be a good time (if there is such a thing) to bring up my longtime crush on the Muppet Newsman. Sure, everyone has a favorite Muppet or three, but a crush? Well...I like to think of myself as Special. In maybe a short-bus kind of way. As in three-feet-tall-with-fuzzy-felt-skin-short. On a bus is optional. The bed would be fine. 

Ahem. SO. I was of course THRILLED to see that Newsie has quite a LOT of screentime in "Muppets Most Wanted," and not just his Muppet Newsflash bits, either! The squeal I let out when I saw him dancing in the waltz scene must've been audible two fandoms away. (Not to worry. The Cumberbitches get the whole sexy-nerd vibe, I hear.) 

But hey, there's far more to love about a new Muppet film than scenes guaranteed to excite a perv like me! There's AMAZING songs, like this one which has become stuck in my head. There are plenty of references to snarky fan demands (Rizzo is, as always, the Voice of the Common Man) and to classic Muppet Show episodes, like the Mirror Kermit sketch (which I'm credibly informed was Jim Henson's homage to Harpo Marx). 




Thank frog, a trailer which DOESN'T 
give away the best bits!


Steve, Eric, Dave, et al did a magnificent job with this one. Bobin and Stoller prove themselves true fans again with a script which honors the original characters and the spirit of the fuzzy, felted folk created by the House of Henson; McKenzie's songs are hilarious; and did I mention the stolid, grumpy, easily flustered Newsman DANCES? 

Oh. And there's some frog-pig snogging, if you're into that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to locate that yellow felt I stashed away for emergencies. 
Hey Derek? I can hear you shuddering from eight states away.  



Monday, March 17, 2014

Bookfest Ate My Brains

This weekend, for the second time ever, I attended the Tucson Festival of Books. Although this seems like an obvious party for any booklover, I resisted exploring it for a number of years, convinced there would be crowds (true), it would be lame (false), mutant scorpions lurked below campus waiting for unwary intruders (still not disproven). Last year was fantastic, and made me realize I'd been an idiot. This year, I returned, and lost my brain somewhere between the best intentions to learn How to Be a Better Author and a dare to pet an author's beard.

No, that's not a euphemism.

I've been writing since I could hold a crayon without eating it, and my technical skills are such that this past year, I became an editor for a bestselling romance-author friend of mine. Now, since I enjoy zombies eating idiot teenagers and tentacle porn with the best of 'em, Regency romance doesn't seem as though it would suit me. It doesn't, generally. But I discovered I really liked Sue London. And then she asked me to read something new she'd written. I critiqued it 'til it bled and sent it back, helpful soul that I am, and Sue ENJOYED my punishment. (Twisted minx.) Though that whole strange trip will wait its telling for a later post, the upshot is: I am now a pro editor. Ish. Paid, and stuff.

But I'm still not the writer I want to be. I've slaved over (and drove to their sorrowful graves) numerous laptops in the quest to write the Great American Horror/Fantasy/Scifi Novel. Since you've never heard of me, you can guess how THAT went. At present, I'm posting a steampunk novel in serial chapters, both for fun and to urge myself to write more, to write better. This is also why I went to the bookfest.

2014 Tucson Festival of Books

 As did over 120,000 others. Well, some might have come for the cupcakes. (Image from the Arizona Daily Star)



I had the best intentions. I swear I did. I perused the whole schedule of panels and picked a couple I wanted to attend. I invited a couple of my housemates to come along. I informed Sue, and Andy Click, co-writers for a new ebook I was in the midst of editing (American Werechaun in Dublin -- and yes, it's as enjoyable as it sounds) that I'd be out all Saturday. This was my first mistake.

"Have fun!" Sue tweeted me. "Pet Wendig's beard for me!"

I've recently begun reading Chuck Wendig's blog and he seems like a witty, helpful guy, if one discounts the screaming in the background. Mr Wendig was co-presenting a panel with Shari Stauch about Hooking Readers with Your Exoskeleton Claws...wait. Sorry, no. That's next year, I think. It was about blogging. Making a blog. Using a blog. BEING the blog. Anyway, I know zip about blogging, so I went. No sooner was I settled into the room when I received Sue's dare.

Hell YES I did.

Mr Wendig was terribly nice about it (he didn't call upon the Elder Gods or douse me with ether when I mentioned Sue's name as my In, which I took as a good sign). And folks, if you've never petted a stranger's beard, this is the guy to start with. It was so fuzzy I could die!


          This is when my brain was eaten. Though I have no proof, 
circumstantial evidence is pretty damning.


I went to two more panels, one with Kathy and Brendan Reichs, who ought to do a stand-up routine in Vegas; and another on platform-building in which the audience were NOT given so much as a Lincoln Log, but which DID feature He of the Cute Scruffiness again. Then I wandered, lonely as the antisocialist nutjob author in a booth all by himself glaring at the passersby...effectively stoopid the rest of the day.

And yet my empty skull SEETHED with Ideas. Most of them are unprintable and probably felonious. One of them was This. This rambling Thing.

I will continue to mine the fertile crossed metaphors of my subconscious, or something, to bring you the best in zombified rants and rambles here. I hope you'll come back. Bring your own beard, though.