Tuesday, October 27, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Jeff Strand


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Jeff.  Welcome to The Gal ... and thank you for being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.
            Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jeff Strand:
Like so many other weirdos, I live in Florida.  I've written about twenty-five books, most of which blend horror and comedy.  They include PressureDwellerWolf HuntA Bad Day for VoodooKumquat (one of my rare non-horror books), Benjamin's Parasite, and the Andrew Mayhem series, which has had four novels so far.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Jeff Strand:
I can't snap my fingers.  I despise horseradish.  I did a lot of theater in high school and usually got multiple small roles because not enough guys auditioned.  I used to have a couple of goldfish named Lefty and Righty, and then later I got more goldfish, which I named Northy, Southy, Easty, and Westy, and my mom said that I was taking the joke too far.  As kids, my friend and I once broke through the ice of a river, but we lived to see another day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Jeff Strand:
Charlie and His Kitten Topsy by Helen Hill and Violet Maxwell.  It's a 1922 book about a kid who occasionally gets out of line, and then has some sort of magical adventure that corrects his behavior.  (I did not read it in 1922.)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Jeff Strand:
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong, and The Writer's Cut by Eric Idle.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Jeff Strand:
It had to be something in my DNA.  I literally can't remember a time that I didn't want to be a writer.  I've been writing my entire life, and submitting my work seriously since I was in high school.  I wasn't submitting GOOD work in high school, but I was definitely trying to get it published.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Jeff Strand:
I like to write out on my back porch.  For most of the Florida summer, it's either too hot to do so or I have to do it with a couple of fans blasting at me, but now that it's October, it's a very pleasant writing environment.  Well, except for the ants.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Jeff Strand:
No.  It's pretty much just a "sit down and start typing" situation.  I do need a distraction-free environment, so no music, TV, or any background noise.  Is it a "process" that I have a program that blocks social media for a specific time?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Jeff Strand:
Description.  That's why there isn't much of it in my work.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Jeff Strand:
I think there's a pretty heavy Douglas Adams and Dave Barry influence on my work.  Also some Richard Laymon.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Jeff Strand:
Characters we care about doing interesting things.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Jeff Strand:
For me, creating characters is a very organic, instinctive process, and it's not usually a conscious effort to make them likable.  Sometimes I have no idea how readers will respond.  Before my novel Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) came out, I was worried that readers might not like Andrew Mayhem, because he's irresponsible and puts his kids in danger.  And Dweller, which is probably the novel of mine that fans like the most, was anxiety-inducing because it hinges on readers falling in love with a big hairy beast in the woods that occasionally eats people.  But if you were to ask me specifically "What did you do to make readers like Owen?" I couldn't really tell you.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Jeff Strand:
Justin Hollow, the main character of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, is probably the closest to the way I was as a kid, in terms of "enthusiasm that outweighs resources and talent."  There's usually not much autobiographical material in my work, though.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Jeff Strand:
Yes, I'm definitely turned off by a bad cover...and I say this as an author who's had a couple of very bad covers that (hopefully!) didn't reflect the contents within.  My involvement varies a lot from book to book.  Sometimes I have zero say in the cover, and sometimes it's exactly what I described.  I'm not that good at coming up with ideas, and some of my favorite covers (like Fangboy, done by Zach McCain) were done with little or no input from me.  My wife, Lynne Hansen, does most of my e-book covers, and I usually just say, "Here's the tone I want," instead of suggesting actual images.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Jeff Strand:
I'm sure you don't want an 800-page answer to this question, so I'm just going to say, "a lot."

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Jeff Strand:
There's a scene in my novel Casket For Sale (Only Used Once) where our heroes are trapped in an overturned camper, while the bad guys fling Molotov cocktails in through the broken windows.  There are several characters involved, and a lot of stuff happening at once in a chaotic environment...but the book is in 1st person, so it was very difficult to figure out how to convey everything to the reader.  I remember wishing that I could cheat and go to 3rd person for just this one scene!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Jeff Strand:
My horror novels have lots of humor in them.  My YA humor novels are sillier than 99% of the other YA humor novels on the market.  I'm shocked by how silly I'm allowed to be.  Shocked!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Jeff Strand:
For me, a book doesn't feel "real" until it has a title, so I try to figure one out as soon as possible.  The process usually involves spending some time with a thesaurus, and then constantly checking Amazon to see if the title has already been used.  A couple of times (Wolf Hunt and I Have a Bad Feeling About This) my title was changed by the publisher.  It's usually not that difficult of a process, although I didn't come up with one of my favorite titles, Stalking You Now, until I was almost done with the book.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Jeff Strand:
Definitely a novel.  I think some of my short stories are my best work...but, still, there's much more of a feeling of accomplishment after finishing a project that took months instead of one that took days.  When I finish a novel, I want to run around the house and do cartwheels, although I resist the urge.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Jeff Strand:
I think I mix things up too much to give an overall answer to that questions.  Some of them are really goofy (FangboyThe Sinister Mr. Corpse), and some are serious (PressureFaint of Heart), and some are a mix (Wolf HuntSingle White Psychopath Seeks Same).  The only time I have a specific target audience is with the young adult books, but even then, they're for anybody who likes wacky humor.  I just want readers to be entertained.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Jeff Strand:
A Bad Day for Voodoo is one of my silliest books, and it originally had a short chapter that spoofed the public domain mash-up craze: Wuthering Heights (With A Cow In It).  It was a couple of pages of Wuthering Heights, with random references to a cow.  The editor asked me to cut it, although it's in the hardcover limited edition of the novel.  The last several chapters of Out of Whack were thrown out and completely rewritten.  If the book had become a cult classic, these chapters would be a fascinating look at how a novel can go off in an utterly bonkes direction.  Quite a bit was cut from I Have a Bad Feeling About This, including an entire early chapter that introduced the love interest, and The Severed Nose had a couple of chapters cut from the end where things just got too ridiculous.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' of for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Jeff Strand:
I have lots and lots and lots of them.  If I ever say, "You should finish what you start!" it's a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do piece of advice.  A not-complete list of titles include Anything Dangerous, Sewn, Sick Day, Semi-Hero, Within, The Apocalypse Ain't So Bad, and plenty of others.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Jeff Strand:
My young adult humor novel The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever comes out in March from Sourcebooks.  That's the only one I can officially announce, but 2016 will be packed with stuff.  Packed!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Jeff Strand:
My website.  I'm on Twitter as @jeffstrand, and on Facebook as JeffStrandAuthor.  I'm on various other social media sites that I rarely check.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by today, Jeff.  It was a pleasure having you. :)
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Jeff Strand:
I wrote a segment of feature anthology film Creepers called "Gave Up the Ghost," which was directed by Gregory Lumberton.  Creepers is now available to rent online from Amazon Video on Demand and Vimeo, so check it out!


About the author:
Jeff Strand is the four-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of such books as PressureDwellerWolf Hunt, and Dead Clown Barbecue.  He is a junk food enthusiast and is shamelessly obsessed with the TV show SURVIVOR.

About the books:

Pressure
Genre: Horror, Psychological Horror
Publisher: Earthling
Publication date: 8.1.2006
Pages: 239

Alex stared at the red pocketknife shown to him by his daughter. A pocketknife owned by somebody he hadn't seen in years...

CHILDREN
They met first in boarding school at age twelve.  Alex Fletcher, shy and scared.  Darren Rust, always furiously scribbling away in a private journal.  It was not an immediate friendship, but then one night Darren convinced  his roommate to sneak off school grounds to see something glorious.  There was a sleazy strip club, you see, and every once in a while the back door opened just long enough to maybe catch a quick glimpse...
            Though a bond was formed from their pre-pubescent interest in naked women, Darren had another interest.  A morbid curiosity about death.  A curiosity that turned into something much more sinister.

FRIENDS
They crossed paths again in college and became the best of friends.  But Darren wasn't just looking for a friend.  He had dark, ghastly urges squirming around in his head, and he believed he saw the same things - the urge to hurt, the urge to kill - in Alex.  He was looking for somebody who understood.  A partner.
            But Alex could never become a monster.  Not even when Darren tried to bring out his friend's most deeply buried feelings of rage.  Not even when Darren tried to show him the euphoria of having that much power over another human being.  It just couldn't happen ... right?

ENEMIES
Now Alex has a wife and a daughter.  And Darren is back.  He's hiding.  He's patient.  His mind is twisted in the worst possible way.
            And he's seeking a soul mate.

PRESSURE is a defining moment in Jeff Strand's career as an author, and an unforgettable psychological thriller you do not want to miss.

Dweller
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Leisure Books
Publication date: 4.1.2010
Pages: 292

Toby was just a boy the first time he saw the creature in the woods.  His parents convinced the terrified child it was only his imagination.  The next time Toby saw the creature, he was a lonely, unhappy teenager without friends.
            But the creature would be his friend.  It would be there when Toby needed someone to talk to.  And it would take care of the bullies who wouldn't leave toby alone.  After all, the creature needed to eat.
            And during their macabre, decades-long friendship, there will be other meals...

Wolf Hunt
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Leisure Books
Publication date: 12.1.2010
Pages: 336

Two thugs.  One innocent woman.  And one VICIOUS frickin' werewolf.
            Meet George and Lou, thugs for hire.  The kind of intimidating-yet-friendly guys who will break your thumbs, but be polite about it.
            Their latest assignment is to drive across Florida to deliver some precious cargo to a crime lord.  The cargo: a man in a cage.  Though Ivan seems perfectly friendly, they're warned that he is, in fact, a bloodthirsty werewolf.
            George and Lou don't believe in the supernatural, but even if they did, it's daytime and tonight isn't the full moon.  Their instructions are straightforward: Do not open the cage.  Do not reach into the cage.  Do not throw anything into the cage.  And they don't.
            Unfortunately, Ivan doesn't play by the usual werewolf rules, and the thugs find themselves suddenly responsible for a ferocious escaped beast.  One who can transform at will.  One who enjoys killing in human form as much as he enjoys killing as a monster.
            If George and Lou want to save their careers, dozens of people, and their own lives, they need to recapture him.  Because Ivan the werewolf is in the mood for a murder spree...

From Jeff Strand, the three-time Bram Stoker Award nominated author of PRESSURE, comes 75,000 words of action-packed, blood-soaked werewolf terror!

Dead Clown Barbecue
Genre: Horror, Short Stories, Anthology
Publisher: Dark Regions Press
Publication date: 12.18.2012
Pages: 260

From the author of PRESSURE, DWELLER and A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO comes a new short story collection featuring seven never-before-printed tales and original cover artwork by Alex McVey.  The stories within his collection range from hilarious to downright disturbing, proving that Jeff Strand is still a master at what he's known for: a delicious blend of the humorous and the horrific.  Strand fans will take a delight in the seven new stories first printed in Dead Clown Barbecue, including "Pett Semmuteary," "Dummy," "True Hero," "Fangboy and the Troll," "Stop Stabbing Me," "Pregnancy Test" and "Push the Button."

A man who finds a severed nose on a plate on his dining room table.  A bell that can summon Satan (maybe).  Casual Fridays at work that get out of control.  A cheery outlook on the post-apocalyptic landscape.  The final thoughts of a doomed skydiver.  A girl punished by having to share a bed with her grandmother's corpse.  Revenge via baking a tarantula into a cake.  A shocking look at where those awful computer-generated book covers come from.  And the lost tale of Fangboy.
            These are only a few of the demented stories in DEAD CLOWN BARBECUE, a collection of thirty gleefully macabre tales, seven of which are written just for this collection.  There's even a brand new one about a ventriloquist dummy.  Those things creep you out, right?  You'll laugh.  You'll scream.  Okay...you probably won't actually scream, unless you already had issues before you started reading, but you might cringe and get a little spooked.

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