Saturday, February 27, 2016

Interview with Steve Vernon, author of Kelpie Dreams

The Speculative Fiction Showcase welcomes Steve Vernon whose new book Kelpie Dreams is currently the subject of a Kindle Scout campaign. Vote for Kelpie Dreams here!

Spec Fic: Apple or PC?

Steve: The first computer I ever bought was an IBM 286 and I am pretty sure that it had a stout hamster running on a wheel inside of it. The IBM lasted me about ten years and I learned all of my bad habits on it. I would be afraid to try and use an Apple for anything except making a pie.

Spec Fic: Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or another word-processing program? Or even pen and paper?

Steve: Again, I am old school. I am most comfortable using Word. I do hope to someday tackle Scrivener – but with a day job, trying to keep a writing career afloat keeps me pretty busy. Maybe too busy to learn a new program – but I keep thinking really hard about trying Scrivener. I have heard an awful lot of good things about it.

Spec Fic: Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?

Steve: I have a large black cat by the name of Kismet – or Kizzy for short. She rarely comes into my writing cave, although the door is always wide open. Still, she makes me grin regularly – and grinning is a great kind of muse. I also have a family of crows, a couple of random bandit blue jays and a whole pack of gangster grackles who I feed every morning. I go out there in my pajamas and do the old fart thing, scattering bread crumbs for the little ones, peanuts for the big ones and cat crunchies for all.

Spec Fic: Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?

Steve: I have got two separate projects that I really would love to see made into movies. One of them is my novella, SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME: A STORY OF HOCKEY AND VAMPIRES, a story that just reeks of good old-fashioned horror. I wrote it thinking of a weird sort of cross between Paul Newman’s SLAPSHOT and Stephen Niles 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. I have got a couple of Canadian producers looking at it. The other movie-worthy project is SINKING DEEPER: MY QUESTIONABLE (POSSIBLY HEROIC) DECISION TO INVENT A SEA MONSTER I believe would make a wonderful YA version of the movie THE GRAND SEDUCTION – only with a sea monster and gum-booted dragon dancers instead of cricket and five dollar bills. I’d love to see some old fart actors like William Shatner or Gordon Pinsent or Rutger Hauer or even Dolph Lundgren in it.
As for the small screen – well, with the possible exception of BREAKING BAD, television usually messes good things up, given time. Sooner or later somebody decides that a perfectly good television series needs a grand story arc and a conspiracy theory or two and some conflicting melodrama and things all go to rat shit.
And oh yes, I should mention that I am a little big on subtitles.

Spec Fic: Are you hooked on any of science fiction/fantasy shows? If so, which one(s)?

Steve: Well, I was hooked on CONSTANTINE, but they pulled the plug on that. I’ve been enjoying GOTHAM and I really wanted to like the reboot of the X-FILES but they went and got all conspiracy-theory and grand arc and lost me on it.

Spec Fic: What is your view of Star Wars, and the latest episode (if seen)?

Steve: Okay – so I went to see the new Stars Wars movie intending to hate it with an intensity that would put erupting volcanoes and mad scientist death ray laser beams into the shade – but it turned out that I really liked it, which surprised me because I absolutely HATE JJ Abrams take on Star Trek and I was REALLY afraid that Star Wars was going to go the same way, but it turned out I liked it just fine. I have heard some folks moan about it being just the same old story – but heck, remember that Lucas made the original movie thinking about an old-fashioned oater – a western, set in space. The thing about westerns is you want to see that dude in the white hat putting a half a dozen slugs into the dude in the black hat in the middle of main street with a mariachi band playing in the background. You don’t necessarily WANT something that is unique or ground-breaking or mind-bending. I go to a Star Wars movie wanting to see the good guy pull out a space blaster and put a smoking hole in the bad guy’s retro-thruster – and that’s just what the new STAR WARS movie did for me.
Now if only Kylo Ren wasn’t such a great shivering wuss-ball things would have been perfect. We need a villain in the Darth Vader weight class for the next flick – never mind Mr. New Age Neo-Goth Puppy-pants.
(It’s funny – but I swung over to IMDB because I couldn’t remember Kylo Ren’s name – and it looks as if the bulk of the critics hate everything I like about the movie. It’s funny – but some fellows keep forever trying to improve upon a classic cheeseburger – by adding French fries and jalapeno peppers and avocado and Portobello mushrooms to it. Me I am a cheeseburger and cold beer kind of man. Nothing flashy, fancy or sophisticated, I just know what I like.)

Spec Fic: What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?

Steve: Wow. I always hate these sort of questions. There are so many great movies out there – but I think that the one movie I turn to time and again is Peter Jackson’s original LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. My wife and I sit down and smoke the whole darned pack at least once or twice a year. It stands up to repeated viewings. We also dig the original STARSHIP TROOPERS as well as BLADE RUNNER.
Don’t talk to me about his HOBBIT movies though. I watched the first one – watched in horror as Peter Jackson decided to go all Jar-Jar Binks on the race of  dwarves – (and I never did really appreciate him letting Legolas get all the Errol Flynn action and leaving Gimli with nothing but the comic relief) – and I just lost all heart for anything more. I never have watched the second or third HOBBIT movie. Or was there four of them? I can’t remember. But I will sit down with a cheeseburger and a beer and Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and happily burn away an entire Sunday.

Spec Fic: Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?

Steve: I am a Luddite with my head in the clouds. I don’t own a cell phone and probably never will. But I do Tweet and you can follow me at @StephenVernon and I Facebook and I keep a blog and I am signed up for Linkedin and I even keep a Pinterest page going. I do not always know just exactly what I am doing with some of these systems – and quite often I am doing the Hustle while everyone else around is in a hip-hop frenzy.

Spec Fic: Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?

Steve: I have been a bit of a gamer but last year I found myself seriously zoning out on endless games of digital Mah Jong and Solitaire as well as a couple of Tower Defense games that were seriously digging into my writing time. I came to realize that what should have been simple stress relief had become an escape that was verging upon addiction – so with a great effort last August I completely stopped online gaming and I do not intend to return to it again. Some folks can take or leave those kind of games with ease – but I find them way too sticky for my cheeseburger brain.
I also, in my ill-spent youth, was a serious diehard pinball junkie and I still keep half an eye out for a good table but they are hard to find these days.

Spec Fic: Do you cook? What is your best/favorite/most popular recipe?

Steve: I learned to cook late in life – when my stepfather caught me trying to make French Toast in a sauce pot by pouring milk and eggs on top of toast crammed into the pot.
I’m not saying I was all that talented.
Later on in my thirties, I began making soup and stews. I really enjoy taking some good fresh ingredients and chopping them up and either boiling or frying or baking them into something that makes folks sit up and yell for beer. I am a bit of a peasant cook – nothing too fancy, but I can guarantee a really good old school feed.
I would have to say that my favourite recipe is HE-MAN BEANS – which you find in my blog right here!

Spec Fic: Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?

Steve: I’ve had a garden for many years. I primarily raise flowers – mostly perennials because I like to see them poking up out of the dirt in the spring time like surprise Easter eggs that you find in June.
But I also have great luck growing tomatoes and peppers and herbs and peas and beans. I don’t grow greens because the slugs are far too plentiful.
There is a great peacefulness that you find yanking weeds out of your garden and there is nothing that feeds a body’s soul like getting a little good honest dirt beneath your fingernails.

Spec Fic: Have you ever been to Starbucks or another coffee shop?

Steve: I love coffee shops and Starbucks has a pretty good dark roast – but I usually prefer the smaller quieter coffee shops. Someplace where I can find some good dark stick-your-coffee-spoon-upright Blue Mountain coffee. Something dark, with a bit of a bite to it. Unfortunately, I find that most of the coffee shops close to where I am are far too noisy with great clusters of droning and chattering socialites and worse yet, those dudes with their laptops who insist upon monopolizing entire tables while they nurse their mini-mocha-mecha-lattes.

Spec Fic: Would you prefer an independent bookshop, or a big chain?

Steve: Wow. This is another one of those kind of questions. I love little tiny obscure indie bookstores – but I also love the nonstop corporate wallow of those big box bookstores where a fellow can clamber up a nearby climbing wall and free launch himself into great heaps of books, splashing around like Scrooge McDuck in his vault full of money. I also really enjoy poking around those mangy, dusty, moldy used bookstores where little mole men peek out at you from cobwebbed stacks of teetering volumes. I love to root for treasure and funky little pulp novels and big obscure coffee table books.
All right – I am a book addict. What can I tell you?

Spec Fic: Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?

Steve: I have a little office that I refer to as my writing cave. It is far too messy to put a photograph out. Besides, the last photographer that came into my writing cave fell into a manuscript and search parties are still looking for him. As for writing in coffee shops or libraries – I am afraid they are just too noisy for this old hermit crab.

Spec Fic: Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?

Steve: Let me the get the most obvious suspect out of the way. It was Stephen King’s SALEMS LOT that first put the I-want-to-write-a-horror-novel bug into my brain. I wrote DEVIL TREE right after reading SALEMS LOT and I wrote TATTERDEMON thinking about SALEMS LOT, only with scarecrows instead of vampires. I also owe a lot to Hemingway’s short fiction and Bukowski’s poetry and the writing of Joe Lansdale as well as J.A. Konrath, Robert Parker and Carl Hiaasen are also kindling upon my campfire.

Spec Fic: What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?

Steve: I guess I’d love to sit down and have a beer with Stephen King. There, I have said it. I am a geeky uber-fan boy. I would also enjoy talking to Neil Gaiman. I actually DID talk to him over the telephone once for a Cemetery Dance magazine interview. He was a well-spoken gentleman who was a treat to interview. I’d love to meet him in person some day.

Spec Fic: If you could have any director to shoot the film of your book(s), who would you choose?

Steve: PHANTASM and BUBBA HO-TEP’s Don Coscarelli comes to mind, as well as Frank Darabont – the only director who EVER ought to tackle a Stephen King story.

Spec Fic: How would you define Speculative Fiction?

Steve: I’d have to define it as a bucket into which somebody has poured an equal portion of horror, science fiction and fantasy into. I would define it as nice combination of what if and why not and how would it be if? It is a genre that blatantly sticks its tongue at bookshelves and cataloguers and the strictures of the Dewey Decimal system.

Spec Fic: On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?

Steve: Oh you are going to have to count a little higher than that.

Spec Fic: Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse?

Steve: Oh no. That is talking poetry and fancy and implies a pinky-finger artfully poked out. I tend towards the redneck blue collar who puts on his work boots before sitting down to the typer.
All right – so I am not actually wearing work boots. I am currently wearing a pair of big gray fuzzy socks – my favourite winter writing footwear.

About Steve Vernon:

Steve Vernon has been writing for over forty years. He started out writing short fiction for small press magazines such as CEMETERY DANCE, THE HORROR STORY, CTHULHU SEX and others. He has written over sixty books including a children’s picture book, several YA novels, a whole lot of horror novels and a half a dozen regional ghost story collections.

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