Friday, October 30, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Tim Curran


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Tim.  Welcome to The Gal.  Thanks so much for being here, and being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.
            Let's start with an easy one: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tim Curran:
Hmm.  I grew up in Michigan.  I was a small town boy who loved catching frogs and snakes in swamps.  I liked watching monster movies and anthology TV like The Outer Limits.  I loved when the older kids in the neighborhood would tell scary stories to terrify us.  When I was five, my mom and sisters dragged me to see a Vincent Price movie called The Oblong Box.  I was terrified.  I've never been the same since.  As a kid, the words oblong...box filled me with horror.  I was a stoner in high school.  I've been a blue collar laborer most of my life (a natural progression from being a stoner).  I have three kids.  I write stories because I'm really not good at anything else.  I wish there was something interesting to say, but there isn't.

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

Tim Curran:
I'm obsessed by pizza, real pizza, not that crap from the chains.  My daughter is an opera singer.  I still read children's books.  I wish the moon really was made of cheese.  I believe that people believe in Bigfoot.  I'd like our next president to be a pissed-off lesbian who happens to be an atheist and chain smokes during press conferences.  Wait...that's six.  Let's make it seven: I  have trouble following rules.

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

Tim Curran:
I think it was either Go, Dog, Go! or Green Eggs & Ham.  I loved both of them.  After those early readers, I think I graduated to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins novels.  I seem to recall being obsessed by Danny and the Dinosaur and Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I got into that book so much as a child that after I saw The Beatles' Yellow Submarine when I was like five, I took a purple crayon and drew submarines all over the walls of my room.  I was pretty proud.  My mom was not impressed at all.  I remember thinking the images in Dr. Seuss' What Was I Scared Of? were the most frightening things I had ever seen.  And I'm not kidding.  Those walking green pants terrified me!  I remember reading a novel in grade school called The Blue Man about an alien invader.  Sometime later, I started reading H.G. Wells and paperback horror anthologies I ordered from the back pages of Creepy magazine.

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

Tim Curran:
I'm reading a nonfiction book called Disease and History, which is about how various plagues and what-not changed the course of historical events.  It's fascinating!  Before that, I was re-reading some novels by Davis Grubb, who was such a good writer.  Next up is The Specimen by Pete Kahle, a friend of mine.  It has an absolutely knock-out cover by Kealan Patrick Burke, a guy whose creativity in art and fiction I admire greatly.  After that, I think I'll try some more Shakespeare, even though I'm way too stupid to understand it.

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

Tim Curran:
I started fooling around with writing when I was in junior high, but that was mostly just to write parodies of TV shows and things like that for my friends to laugh at.  I didn't really do any serious writing until I was seventeen or eighteen and it was really bad.  For some reason, I always believed I could write.  I never did much of it, but I was sure I could.  It makes no sense now.  It's like knowing three chords on a guitar and telling yourself you're going to be Jimi Hendrix.

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

Tim Curran:
I have an office in my basement.  It's crowded and disorganized.  You have to step around stacks of books and piles of junk.  But I like it.  It kind of looks like the inside of my mind.

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

Tim Curran:
Not really.  I'm pretty practical in that if I know my story, I just write it.  I find that the less you think about it, the easier it comes.

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

Tim Curran:
The first paragraph of anything is tough because with it you set mood, tone, pacing... everything.  It has to be written carefully, I think.  After that, you can run, but that paragraph you have to take great care with, in my opinion.

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

Tim Curran:
I think Lovecraft and his circle.  William Hope Hodgson and Henry S. Whitehead.  Love M.R. James and his tactical horror (yes, I called it horror!  Don't know why people call his stuff ghost stories).  Having grown up in a rural area and spent my boyhood in the woods, I really love Algernon Blackwood.  Also early Stephen King and James Herbert, particularly The Rats trilogy, The FogThe Dark, and The Spear.  Probably Bradbury when he was feeling dark and Bloch when he was't writing satire.  I love Thomas Ligotti and Phil Rickman's horror.  The splatterpunk guys' from the 1980s really opened my eyes.  Robert E. Howard's short story Pigeons from Hell made me want to be a horror writer.  I read a lot of new horror writers because, good or bad, they hit the floor running and their enthusiasm is catching.  Outside of the genre, David Morrell's novel, First Blood, made more of an impression on me as a writer than anything I've read since.  I discovered it when I was eighteen and it was not only a great story, but like a writing class for me.  Everything is perfectly balanced.  To this day, when I don't feel inspired, I pick up that book and study how he puts together sentences into paragraphs and it inspires me.  Gregory Benford can combine science and mainstream fiction better than anyone since Arthur C. Clarke, I think.  Cormac McCarthy amazes me with his simplicity.  Dorothy B. Hughes always wowed me with her clear, sparse style and incredible imagery, particularly in Ride the Pink Horse.  Dennis Lehane is one of the few writers around that makes me think I really know nothing about writing.

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

Tim Curran:
A good story is just that: an interesting tale with some interesting characters to support it.  People don't have to like your characters, but they should be able to understand their motivations, good or bad, right or wrong.  And they must be real people with all the quirks, anxieties, and neuroses that people have.  The greatest characters in the world can't make a bad story/idea/plot/execution work and the best characters will sink fast if the story has nothing to sustain them.  But that's just my opinion.  The New York Times Bestseller list is crowded with bad writing, silly plots, and cliched characters... sometimes readers just want comfortable, worn-out ideas and situations.  That's why cozy mysteries exist.  That's why James Patterson is rich.  Sometimes, though, it's not the writers, but the publishers who are afraid to break from the tried and true path.  I was contacted by a mass market New York publisher last year who wanted me to do books for them.  I thought it was great until they explained that there was a template that had to be followed.  The protagonist had to be 100% good, and the antagonist had to be 100% bad.  By chapter three the love interest had to be nailed.  Any monsters introduced should not eat children (even though they're the softest and tastiest) and not too much time should be spent on graphic descriptions of gore or violence.  Also, characters shouldn't say anything that might be construed as being blatantly sexist, racist, or religiously intolerant.  In other words, they couldn't be real people.  But the most important thing was to avoid violence or cruelty to animals because, you know, in the scheme of things, dogs and cats are so much more important than human beings.  I guess they wanted me to write something for the Sunday church supplement.

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?

Tim Curran:
I no longer get emotionally attached to my characters, if possible.  I found that when I did, I couldn't kill them off when they needed to go.  Being older and maybe wiser, the blush of youth being long faded from my cheeks, I know that bad, horrible, ugly things happen to good people all the time.  So now I act like God - I'm a merciless, heartless sadist when I need to be.

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

Tim Curran:
They all are in bits and pieces.  Something of an author goes into every character you write, even the bad ones.  You might meet some guy at a party and think, wow, what a fucking weirdo, he'll make a great character.  But even so, you filter him through your own mind, through your personal likes and dislikes and everything else so he makes sense to you.  If he or she doesn't make sense, it's hard to write about them.

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?

Tim Curran:
I like a really good cover.  A good cover won't save you if the book stinks, but if you've got a good story, well-written, and a good cover, you're on your way.  As far as my book covers go, it depends on the publisher.  Some want your input, some don't.  Very often, my opinion is asked, but rarely followed.  But that's okay.  You can't run the whole zoo.

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

Tim Curran:
That when I was young I had absolute confidence and I knew exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.  Now that I'm older, my confidence is shaky and I have no idea what I'm going to do until I do it.

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

Tim Curran:
Nothing comes to mind.  When I'm feeling lazy, they're all hard to write.

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

Tim Curran:
I'm not sure.  I tend to get into very detailed descriptions of monsters.  I really hate it when an author describes things generically.  That's boring.  I think it's important to launch strong imagery into the reader's head.  That's my quirk and I like to work it.

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?

Tim Curran:
I find it hard to write without a title.  Sometimes I change it three or four times, but I have to have something in the back of my mind, an image of some sort.  I think Dead Sea was originally something lame like Prey.  The Devil Next Door was I Am the Devil.  Hive was originally Out of the Ice.  Regardless, I have to have something.

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

Tim Curran:
They're such different animals.  I like them both.  With novels, you just flow and let it happen because you've got plenty of space.  With short stories, you have to be constantly editing yourself because every sentence, every paragraph, has to justify its existence.  Short stories, in many ways, are more of a challenge.  But after you come off slogging through a novel, the idea of doing a short story is very refreshing, very exciting.

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.

Tim Curran:
I have no idea who my target audience is.  I don't understand marketing at all.  If I did, I'd probably sell a lot more books.  I just write what I write and over the years I've developed a small, loyal following that I'm very appreciative of.  Maybe I'm doing something right.  If my readers take anything away I hope it would be that I write horror fiction because I love it and I really do respect the form.

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

Tim Curran:
I've had very few editors that wanted to cut scenes.  It's happened, but not often.  Most of the things that get trimmed, I do myself.  Sometimes certain parts don't add up to the whole.  Every novel I've written, I've tossed out a few things.  If you've read the Altar 13 limited edition of The Devil Next Door, you'll know what I mean.  There's something like 9,000 words of deleted scenes and alternate versions of scenes tacked onto the end of the book.  But that was only some of it.  There's still something like 5,000 words or more of other stuff I didn't include.  Hell, it might be more like 10,000 words.  That book is but one example.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?

Tim Curran:
About six or seven novels I wrote early on.  None of them are completely wretched, but they'd need a lot of work if I was to ever put them out.  One of them I actually did re-write as House of Skin a few years ago.  It was published by Comet Press.  It was so bizarre I had to do something with it.  Maybe I'll do something with the others one day.

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

Tim Curran:
I have more novels and one novella coming from DarkFuse.  I'll be doing some things with Thunderstorm Books.  I'll be finishing off my ongoing Hive series with Hive 3.  It's already a huge, huge book that I've been sitting on for years.  Because of its size, I'll probably be self-publishing it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?

Tim Curran:
I'm on Facebook and I have a website, but I haven't updated it in like a year.  I plan on having it professionally designed.  But there's lots of stuff about me and my books if anyone's interested.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Tim.  It was amazing having you!! :)


About the author:
Tim Curran hails from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  He is the author of the novels Skin MedicineHiveDead SeaResurrectionHag NightThe Devil Next DoorLong Black CoffinAfterburnerSkull MoonNightcrawlers, and Biohazard.  His short stories have been collected in Bone Marrow Stew and Zombie Pulp.  His novellas include The Underdwelling, The Corpse King, Puppet Graveyard, Sow, Leviathan, Worm and Blackout.  His short stories have appeared in such magazines as City Slab, Flesh&Blood, Book of Dark Wisdom, and Inhuman, as well as anthologies such as Shivers IV, World War Cthulhu, Shadows over Main Street, and, In the Court of the Yellow King.  His fiction has been translated into German, Japanese, and Italian.

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