Wednesday, March 16, 2016

AMONG THE STACKS: David Bernstein


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, David!  Welcome to The Gal.  You're one of the authors I "know" that I've always wanted to have on, so I'm glad to finally have you here.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

David Bernstein:
I like routine.  I don't get bored eating the same thing over and over.  I could eat pizza every day.  I like watching movies and television shows, everything from dramas (Breaking Bad), to horror (SupernaturalMasters of Horror), to cop shows and comedies.  Hell, I watched Gossip Girl!  But I also loved DexterBlue Bloods and The Shield.  Younger is a fun show.  Yeah, I said it.  I watch everything.  I used to study martial arts: Karate, Aikido, Kung Fu - White Crane, Choy Le Fut, Hung Gar, Wing Chung - and Tai Chi, the combat kind.  I love to draw, go camping and just sit around and be lazy on Sundays.  Road trips are great.  I  hate going to snooty parties and weddings, that shit isn't my cup of tea.  Give me a bar with a pool table.

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

David Bernstein:
Off the top of my head:
  1. I studied martial arts for a good part of my life (though I mentioned it above).
  2. I can't read for long periods of time without getting headaches.  It's SO frustrating.  (Yes, my vision and head were both checked.)
  3. I love Pomeranians.
  4. I hate public speaking/readings.
  5. I do not use beta-readers.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

David Bernstein:
Little Pear.  I read books before that one, but I remember Little Pear because for weeks my dad and I would read it together.  It's a wonderful tale.

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

David Bernstein:
The Black Goat Motorcycle Club by Jason Murphy.  I love books, TV shows, movies and documentaries about motorcycle gangs.  This is one of those books with the added element of supernatural creatures.

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

David Bernstein:
I think writing has always been in me.  When I was in elementary school, I wrote my first short story. It was about a haunted house.  Some of the letters were backwards, that's how young I had been.  I still have it today.  I might've occasionally written something here or there, but I didn't truly get into writing until 2009.  I started writing short stories and subbing them.  From there I wrote a short story called Amongst the Dead about a father who dies and leaves his 13 year old daughter alone in the woods.  I wanted to know what happened to her so I wrote more.  Then more.  And before I knew it, I had a novel.

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

David Bernstein:
I prefer writing while I'm on my couch, but I spend most of my time writing while I'm at work.  I have a lot of free time.

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

David Bernstein:
Not really.  I write long-hand.  In today's world, that might be considered a quirk!  I'm not a very organized writer.  I do not have tons of outlines, notes or Post-Its all over my desk.  I just write when I sit and only keep notes on a page or two.

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

David Bernstein:
Writing when you don't want to is difficult, but also necessary if you want to succeed.  Sometimes I feel like I've spent a writing session producing utter crap, but I realize at least I progressed in the project.  I can always fix it up later.  And then there's writing the back cover copy or a brief synopsis. Those things are so annoying, but the more I do them, the easier they seem.  I mean, getting your entire book into a few sentences is really tough.

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

David Bernstein:
Stephen King's It.  I  hated reading until a friend of mine handed me a copy of it.  I couldn't put it down and, when I finished it, I went out and bought more King books.  I was hooked from that point on.  I read tons of Leisure horror titles, too.  I'd say those books were the most influential, but I think "horror" itself is the most influential thing of all.  I've always loved horror everything: movies, books and Halloween.

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

David Bernstein:
All the stuff a character has to endure.  I don't care so much about how they appear.  So many people do, it seems.  I love twists and turns too, when you think you know what's going on and then the story takes a sharp turn.  Being shocked, whether by unexpected events or actions.

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?

David Bernstein:
How they react to obstacles.  Seeing what a character does in daily life as well as when the s hit hits the fan shows me a lot.  With my own writing, I work and rely on the story first.  The characters reveal themselves along the way regardless of how they look or what they do for a living.  I let the story define them.

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

David Bernstein:
Riley from Amongst the Dead because she never quits and is a tough cookie.  She goes through so much turmoil and - well, I don't want to give anything away.

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?

David Bernstein:
Bad covers are a turnoff.  A cover is an advertisement to read your book, so it should look as magnificent as possible.  However, that won't necessarily stop me from reading a book IF it's an author I like or the book sounds awesome and was recommended to me.  But let's be honest, the first thing we see is the cover and that can influence a few seconds decision on whether to investigate the book further.
            To some degree, I've been involved with most of the book covers, but I like leaving it up to the publisher as to the final product.  I'm usually asked what I'd like to appear on the cover, what direction, stuff like that.  I always give my input, but I never throw a tantrum if it comes out differently than I imagined.  All in all, I consider myself lucky when it comes to covers.  I've been pretty happy with most of them.

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

David Bernstein:
I came into writing horror knowing NOTHING and NO ONE in the business.  I wrote short stories and submitted them, learning along the way.  I knew how to write and the rules of grammar and whatnot, but nothing of the industry.  I've learned so much I couldn't possibly write it all here.  But to name a few things:
  1. Patience is a must when it comes to writing, submitting, editing and promoting.
  2. Humility.  Learn that you won't please everyone and that that is okay.  You just want to please more than you don't.
  3. Be courteous to editors and let your work speak for itself.  Don't tell them how great your story is - that's just a NO NO.
  4. Try to publish in multiple places so if one goes under you aren't left with a mess, and you have houses to publish your manuscripts with.
  5. GO to conventions.  It's very important to get out there, meet others and network.  I'm not comfortable in crowds or with new people, but I did it and did it knowing no one in the business.  I went to StokerCon alone and met people, pitching my novel and was signed.
  6. Never give up!  Do you know how many times my stories or first novel was rejected?  A LOT.
  7. Learn to take criticism from editors and beta readers or other authors.  Ask questions.  Most authors are friendly and want to help.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

David Bernstein:
Scenes involving rape.  I hate reading scenes involving it, too.  But it's something that happens in real life. When I wrote The Unhinged, I wanted the book to pull no punches.  I let the pen and my mind go and the result was an extreme piece of horror fiction.  I love writing gore-filled scenes, but I don't like having rape scenes in my stories.  I could leave them out, but I feel like I'd be "fixing" the tale.

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

David Bernstein:
A couple of things.  I don't like a lot of filler.  I like to get to the point.  I also enjoy writing a variety of horror, form action-horror to sci-fi horror to gory horror to calm horror.  You might read one of my books and pick up another and the experience will be quite different.  The Tree Man is a tale that involves little fore, but supplies scares and a twist that, as far as I've heard, no one saw coming.  Then there's Goblins, a creature tale filled with loads of carnage.  Surrogate is a sci-fi/LifetimeDrama/action-packed/horror novella.  Then there's The Unhinged, an extreme, totally bat-shit crazy novel that has no supernatural elements.

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)?

David Bernstein:
After the cover, book title is the most important.  I like simple titles more, like Bentley Little's books. Amongst the Dead was easy because it was about a girl in a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world.  Damaged Souls, well, it has to be read to understand the title without giving it away, but it's a dark, gruesome tale.  Witch Island is one of my favorites.  Simple and paints a picture.  It's a supernatural slasher book involving a witch's spirit and teens camping out.  B-movie fun!  How about Fecal Terror?  What a title!  The Suitcase was the original title for Relic of Death, but the latter sounded more appealing to the publisher and I completely understood.  Unless you're a "named/popular" author, a title may make the difference.

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

David Bernstein:
A novel.  Writing a novel takes more time (usually) and it gives me more satisfaction because it's more than just a snippet of a character or an event.  You also know (hope) more people will read it because it's a novel.  You've spent so much time on it and when it's done, you feel so accomplished.

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.

David Bernstein:
I would like my work to appeal to a wide "dark fiction" audience.  I want people to come away after reading my work feeling satisfied.  I want my work to entertain and take people away from the rigors of their everyday lives.  I think, above all else, books should entertain.  Lastly, I've ben writing more violent stories with gore.  Witch IslandSkinner, and the upcoming The Sludge are B-movie type horror with monsters, teens and cook kill scenes.  Relic of Death is a non-gory tale, and is sort of a horror, Twilight Zone crime novella where the main protagonist is a briefcase as it goes from one person to the next.  Apartment 7C is a dark, gruesome thriller about an old lady who has to deal with her past and a neighbor who is abusing his wife.  Damaged Souls is about a demon who comes to earth and wants to open the gates of Hell by completing a painting, and a man sent back from purgatory must stop him - filled with scares and gore.  Fecal Terror, well, is one about a boy who wants to summon a demon.  He wrongly performs the ritual, drinks the sacrificial goblet of blood, and the demon forms in his bowels - hence Fecal Terror is born!  Goblins is a very gory tale about the lost Roanoke colony.  Really it is.  The Unhinged is about a recent parolee who is blackmailed by a maniac cop and things get crazy.  Machines of the Dead is a zombie trilogy about nanobots that animate the undead.  Tears of No Return is a mix of urban fantasy, horror, action and sci-fi - aliens and supernatural creatures.  Toxic Behemoth is really different as it's an action-packed Kaiju (giant sea monster) crime, horror, military adventure.

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

David Bernstein:
I don't have too many.  Most of the stuff isn't edited out of my books.  I don't put in a lot of filler, but there is one huge one.  Originally, Surrogate had another character and story line.  There was a young man named Jeremy.  He was a truly sick and twisted serial killer.  The book was novel-length and I had to cut it down so that it could fit into Darkfuse's novella line.  I also felt it was too extreme for Darkfuse.  I might use that character in another book, but as of now, I have no plans.  There was also a gory sex scene that was taken out because the editor didn't think it fit.  And  then there is Fecal Terror.  That novella was never meant to be published.  I had written it during a time I wasn't getting published.  I was angry and decided to write something outrageous.  Some time later, the at-the-time owner of Bizarro Pulp Press (now owned by Journalstone) contacted me asking if I had anything bizarre-like or weird.  I told him about Fecal Terror and he wanted it.  And, to be honest, it's more grindhouse than bizarre.

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

David Bernstein:
I just finished my part of Jackpot 2 - co-authored with Shane McKenzieAdam Cesare, and Kristopher Rufty.  I have a novel called Episodes of Violence coming from Sinister Grin Press, a novella called The Sludge from Great Old Ones Publishing, and a bizarre book entitled Retch from Bizarro Pulp Press.  I am planning sequels to The UnhingedWitch Island and Tears of No Return, just not sure when those will be finished.

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

David Bernstein:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
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?

David Bernstein:
I'd like to thank you for this interview and my readers for their constant support.  And whether someone has liked or disliked any of my books, any and all reviews are VERY MUCH appreciated.  They are author gold.  It's the best way you can support an author... after purchasing their books, of course!


About the author:
David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills.  He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh.  He's grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there.  He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C, and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence.  David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror.  He loves hearing from his readers.

No comments: