I am here today with author Patrick Greene who is one of the authors in the upcoming short story book, The Endlands.
JR: Ok Patrick, I will let you introduce yourself, as I am horrible with formalities.
PG: No prob. In addition to being the world’s foremost horror fiction author, I’m a screenwriter, actor and all around martial arts bad ass.
JR: A jack of all trades in the entertainment industry and you could beat me up. How would you submit me if I rejected a manuscript?
PG: There’s something called the STF; stepover toehold with a face lock. Learned it from an ex-carnival wrestler named Billy Wicks. Over seventy years old and he could take anybody alive. It leaves the hands free for signing an acceptance letter.
JR: You have two stories that will be included in the short story book. Tell me a little about them. Where did you come up with the ideas?
PG: Into the Small Hours delves into that part of our brain that likes to be in familiar places. The protag finds himself in a motel far from home when a debilitating snow storm hits. A scream wakes him, and he has to make choices about how much he wants to know of what’s going on in the neighboring rooms. Isolation in an alien place is pretty terrifying, when you start considering the possibilities. On occasion, I’ve been to places that just didn’t seem quite right, that had me looking over my shoulder, even though it might be a perfectly reasonable gathering place. Snatch someone out of a dead sleep in an unfamiliar place and imagine how that feeling must be amplified. The dark recesses of your mind could have a field day.
Room 422 deals with the anxieties of approaching parenthood. Not just the responsibilities, but the element of the complete unknown; not having any clue how this could possibly change the direction of one’s life. That leads to an examination of the world in which our hero is bringing his child. Society needs to change, and that begins with our children. What if evolution forced that change?
JR: Room 422 is one of my favorites because it definitely gets you thinking when we will be replaced as lesser beings. We never believe it can happen to us, but history proves otherwise. Describe what issues you think need to be corrected fast in our society today, as it seems we continue to think we can act without consequence.
PG: The whole energy thing seems most obvious. After this most recent oil spill, I thought we’d all pretty much see the writing on the wall, but it’s still all about making the money now, paying dearly later. Improving basic education seems the most grassroots thing we could do to cut down on crime, poverty and health issues. I’m a pretty optimistic guy; I tend to think we’ll come around as a race at some point and start taking care of each other.
JR: It is obvious that horror has influenced your writing. What made you choose horror and what are your thoughts on the genre?
PG: I’m sure the stock answer is ‘horror chose me’. Honestly, I’m not sure. I have drawings I made from when I was a toddler that depict piles of bodies, knives in skulls, monsters and such. Must’ve been born under a dark sign.
I think it’s the purest genre. Fear puts you in touch with the proximity of death, how it’s waiting for us and doesn’t care whether we’ve accomplished all we wanted or not. It teaches us –if we listen- to live in the moment. Horror manages to transcend its own tired conventions somehow, time after time, and reflect society’s ugly truths for us to digest as we choose.
JR: When I was a toddler I was happy playing with legos and silly puddy. You were drawing bodies, skulls and monsters. Were you already heavily exposed to horror this young, or was it just a natural inspiration?
PG: I have a few distinct memories of things that gripped my imagination. I used to see scary things standing at my doorway in the dark when I was very small. My dad was a journalist. Once, he woke me up and dragged my mom and me out to look for a UFO that he had heard about on his police scanner. I can still remember the sense of dread and wonder of that night. Then there was the infamous shower scene from Psycho…
JR: You’ve said Psycho inspired your interest in horror. First of all, isn’t that a little twisted? Secondly, what was it about the story that sparked your inspiration?
PG: It is pretty twisted. My parents had decided on a trip to the drive-in one night when I was very young. They were showing a revival of classic films. The first feature was something innocuous that I can’t remember. For the second feature, which was Psycho, they made me lie down in the back seat to go to sleep, but I fooled ‘em good. Peaked between the seats and got an eyeful of the shower scene. I guess that was the first time I saw somebody killed in a truly horrific fashion. Cowboys kill injuns, cops kill robbers, and it’s all so quick, and it’s painted as heroic. Here’s this beautiful woman in possibly the most defenseless position anyone can find themselves, and some shadowy figure comes in and starts hacking her up for what seems like an eternity! Something in my mind must have said “Damn, people can actually do that to each other?” I think that was a very honest bit of filmmaking for that time. Stylistic though it was, it didn’t gloss over death in any way, just put it right in your face. I watched it again recently, and it held up really well.
JR: I agree that it didn’t gloss over death in any way, shape or form, but why isn’t that type of fear mimicked in current horror?
PG: I think Hitchcock was trying to find a way to express himself and the horror of the situation that hadn’t been done before. Multiple stabs? That must have been insane back then. He didn’t take himself very seriously, as you can see in the intros to his TV show. A lot of modern day filmmakers either see themselves as auteurs, or believe cynically that their only audience is the teen market. The adherence to ingrained screenplay structure has done more harm than good. Psycho does things –like making us identify with Bates at times- that no one tries today, because it deviates from contemporary screenplay structure as taught by six billion writers who’ve all accepted the same examples as the only way to do it.
JR: I have met and talked to many horror authors and they all seem to be . . . how can I say this gently? . . . a bit odd. Some even border on insanity. Do you fall into this category? Do you believe it is necessary to be a ‘bit crazy’ to write good horror?
PG: I’m as whacked as they come, bro’. I was always different, always seeing things in a different light, always thinking in an odd direction, comparatively speaking. Whenever someone tells me something is a certain way, I’m thinking “Yeah? Why?” And that’s the really scary part, because for most people there is no reason. They just accept everything that’s fed to them without arguing.
In terms of writing or digesting horror, I see it like this: we all have crazy morbid thoughts, every one of us. When you write or experience something as a horrific metaphor, you’re exorcising it, working through it, confronting it face to face. The miserable saps who suppress all their inner horrors; they’re the ones who aren’t healthy.
JR: Ok, makes sense. What are some things that scare the crap out of you, and does writing about them ease the fear?
PG: Going back to the issue of taking care of the earth; I sometimes consider that if I was infested by some parasite that contributed nothing good to my wellbeing, I’d get rid of the whole lot, whether they were individually drilling into me or not. If you think of the earth as a living organism, it’d be about due for de-licing.
Then there’s religion. Fundamentalism is the quickest and most effective way to create division, because when you say something is God’s word, it takes away the responsibility of thinking for oneself; of examining the many layers of reasons why something is the way it is.
Writing about it definitely helps me exorcise those fears. It forces me to consider why it scares me, and maybe see it in a different light that shows I was merely reacting as I’m conditioned to.
JR: You also write horrotica. What the hell is that?
PG: The best of both worlds! Horror stories that are heavy on sex, or vice versa. Sex is scary and horror is sexy. They go hand-in-hand for some ill-defined reason. Take the concept of taking a girl to the horror show so she’ll seek solace in your arms. I’m not into porn; the written word works better for me, so I took a shot at creating the kind of scenarios you just can’t get away with in films. And it worked out pretty well for me.
Incidentally, I write horrotica under a nom de plume; good luck finding which one.
JR: Is that the trick to women?
PG: Whatever the trick is, it’s a mystery to me.
JR: I have been let down by horror lately, especially movies. They seem, to me, to focus on gore and shock value for an audience instead of a good story. What are your thoughts on the genre? What is your part in this oversaturated genre?
PG: The problem with so many contemporary horror films is they are written and produced by people who are not into horror; who even sort of look down their noses at it. It’s by-the-numbers filmmaking, not true storytelling. I don’t mind gore; in fact I like it a lot. But you are correct sir. The “horror formula” quickly becomes overwrought. “On page blabbedy blah, we need a fake scare, then on page crappedy four, we should have a gory kill.”
There are some really good contemporary horror films too, and some amazing horror geek filmmakers whose work and sensibilities speak to me. So I just gravitate toward them; I don’t try to see every single horror flick. When I write a horror screenplay, I want it to have characters who are as honest and meaningful as those in any “important” Oscar-worthy work. They don’t have to be cardboard just because the genre is considered to be a lesser form of entertainment by the mainstream.
JR: I don’t mind gore either, but it seems way overdone and almost like the producer doesn’t care about touching as you say “their inner horrors”. I really love horror that touches my emotions based on a situations and storytelling, rather than seeing someone get their arm twisted off. Any thoughts? Also talk a little about why horror producers somehow seem to ruin good horror with multiple installments of the same general concept. For example, the Saw movies.
PG: My feeling is honestly that there is so much for every taste in the horror genre. For instance, I find myself drawn to films with a supernatural theme, with real people dealing with how that can affect them, good or bad. Throw in a little gore -but not just hopeless torture- a heavy dose of atmosphere, some hint of macabre humor, and I’m happy. But then I can have a great time with an old school, body count slasher film as well. Some might watch The Others or The Sixth Sense and find all the horror they need in them. It’s a pretty broad spectrum.
Most horror producers only see the bottom line, and the numbers don’t lie. Saw and films like that are popular because they speak to some of us on some level. There is a level of storytelling there, though it’s sometimes hard to detect past the emphasis on kills. To me, Saw and Hostel and The Passion Of The Christ –all films which seem to delight in the depiction of torture- are reflections of social issues. Most of those hit and were popular around the time that political torture was prevalent in the news. The writers were addressing it, then the audience was processing it for themselves, and it was all happening on a somewhat subconscious level. There’s your bright side.
JR: Who are you favorite horror writers and who do you not like?
PG: When I discovered Clive Barker, I was blown away! There are no taboos with that guy. And not only is he a good storyteller with a brilliant imagination, his prose is just smooth as glass. There’s just this certain honesty about his work that is both terrible and beautiful. …Terrutiful.
And King, of course. We all owe a lot to that guy. I think it’s all been said, but hell, I’ll say it anyway. He writes with a sense of compassion for his characters that you just don’t see too often. That’s why I want my characters to be real and empathetic, I learned it from the King.
Edward Lee has written some stuff that blows me away, but he’s been a bit inconsistent as well. He’s not afraid to saturate his pages with the grue, and as I said, I like that. He creates wonderful, atmospheric environments, and that’s key in writing good horror. And then of course, there’s Poe. I break out some Poe usually when I’m between reading novels, just to have a taste –and the resultant influence- of something a little more old world.
By the way; welcome back to the dark side, Anne Rice.
JR: All those authors are the best of the best and they’re all twisted. I personally think Poe is the scariest of all of them. Who do you consider to be the originator of horror, or most influential to the genre?
PG: Considering his sheer output, the translation of his work to film, the variety of topics he’s covered—King is definitely the most influential voice in the history of horror. There are songs about his stories, bands named after his characters—it’s almost impossible to try to track all the ways his work has infiltrated pop culture.
As far as the originator- well, I guess men have always found ways to entertain one another with scary stories. Even long before the written word, they gathered around campfires after the hunt and conjectured what might be watching them from the dark. It’d be a fun project, trying to find the first written horror story.
JR: On to a new topic. With kindle and ebooks being so popular now, do you think printed books will become obsolete?
PG: I’d say twenty years away, yeah, we’re looking at printed publishing as being in the same category as vinyl LPs. For environmental reasons, it’s probably for the best. But I’ll miss carrying around big, heavy copies of say, Descartes, and looking all smart. …Say, don’t you think it’s funny that no one stands outside bookstores and sprays people with fake tree sap the way animal rights people spray fur wearers with fake blood?
JR: Really never thought of that. Protestors must be readers. I mean, they can’t protest everything or the world would be pretty boring. By the way, I hope you are wrong about the publishing industry or I am screwed. I hope the diehard readers will always want to have a hard copy of the book, rather than an electronic version. Maybe I am just a little naïve.
PG: Fundamentalists will always need something to burn. Maybe you could figure out a way to make them more flammable.
JR: It seems that new authors have less and less of a chance to break into this increasingly close knit community. And yet, small publishers seem to be taking more of the market. What are your thoughts about the book industry?
PG: I’m just learning the ropes of today’s book industry. My dad was a writer, so I had a bit of exposure to its inner workings via his dealings. Because of the growth of electronic media, there are more niches, more specialties and more opportunities for writers and publishers to find their audiences. It seems all good from here. The small publishers that stay afloat seem to be the ones that knew the market before it started changing so much, and took it upon themselves to embrace the changes. The writers who find success are those who are willing to take some risks.
JR: Exactly. Even some bookstores haven’t embraced the change. Can you believe a superstore like Barnes and Noble could be up for sale?
PG: Really? Wow. Better get by there and buy up some spare copies of the Twilight series.
JR: This is way off topic. I don’t know if I am a fan of this new concept of making all movies in 3D. Avatar was good but I was thrilled that Inception didn’t go with this new trend. What are you thoughts about 3D movies?
PG: 3D has almost a sideshow connotation. It implies that you’re going to see something so visually impressive, that it doesn’t even need a story, or at least that story takes a deep back seat. Like I did that night at the drive in. But then again, if it enhances the viewing experience, it’s hard to argue against it. Since the process is so much less expensive comparatively than it used to be, I don’t think it’s just a trend. 3D is likely to stay with us, at least until it too is pushed aside by… “Brainema”; cinema inside your brain!
It’s telling that horror led the way in pioneering the new 3D wave. Some films seem tailor-made for 3D, such as the upcoming Godzilla. Really, that is the next logical step for a character who has pretty much seen it all.
JR: Yeah. Unfortunately I think they are here to stay but they do give a better visual experience, but can be deficient in storyline.
PG: Yeah, it’s hard to imagine a Merchant-Ivory production in 3D.
JR: This is one question I ask every author I interview. Why do authors not understand deadlines? I am a publisher and love authors, but authors drive me nuts when it comes to deadlines.
PG: You know, personally, I try to be the easiest guy in the world to work with when it comes to publishers and producers and the like. Too easy at times; especially when it comes to the film biz. But especially in terms of deadlines, I want to beat the deadline whenever I can, and just surprise the people I’m working with when it comes to putting out good work in a timely fashion. I guess a lot of it is that I just have so much fun writing this stuff, and I love to immerse myself in it. I don’t really have a problem with writer’s block and if somebody wants my stuff, I’m still at that sort of eager to please stage, where I can’t wait to hear what someone thinks of it.
That said, a deadline can be at times intimidating, even immobilizing for some writers. And considering all the other irons I have in the fire with acting and whatnot, I’d have to say I’d be hard pressed to meet a deadline right now. …Why? You’re not about to hit me with one are you?
JR: Not yet, but I would love to see a novel from you in the near future as you do hit horror right on the head. Plus, if you hit deadlines on time, you would make my life so much easier.
PG: Cool, I’m on it.
JR: In my opinion, all authors have quirks. Some will talk to me on the phone for hours about a story that’s not even written; some talk in a different voice when they are writing; some authors need to be chemically induced to produce. What are your quirks and why are authors so weird?
PG: Man, authors come from a different place, that’s for sure. They got the devil in ‘em I tell ya. If I have a ritual, it’s that the house has to be relatively clean. I do like to put on some music, usually some kind of dark ambience or metal when I’m writing. But as far as quirks go, I’m probably pretty low key. Unless you count the Santeria ritual I perform over my keyboard, with the chicken blood and all. Sorry PETA.
JR: Yes, that would be considered a quirk. But whatever works, right?
JR: What are your dreams and goals in this industry? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
PG: 2012 is the end. After that, I will rebuild society. I will rule over all that I see with an absolutely iron fist, and continue to write stories that will be published and produced for all to read; for it will be mandatory.
JR: And the only publisher in world would be Hobbes End Publishing. I like it.
PG: You’ll also be in charge of animal control.
JR: Your turn to ask me a question.
PG: Why is it that head hair grows till you cut it, but body hair grows to a certain length then stops?
JR: Sure give me the hard question. Ok, neurons in the brain stop growing at one point in adolescence, which stops dendrite growth down the nervous system. So with dendrites not moving down the spine, it reverses to grow up through the scalp. If you cut your hair, you are essentially cutting your neurons, which makes you dumber. Body hair comes from hair follicles which stop growing once the weight exceeds what the follicle can handle. I shave my head because I am too smart and would no longer be able to hold conversations with human kind anymore. Hope the helps.
PG: I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
I think Lindsey Lohan should… Try to get out more. She’s such a homebody.
My idea to stop the oil spill in the gulf is… Stuff it full of corrupt executives. And reality program producers.
I think President Obama should… Kick Dick Cheney in the crotch, just on principle.
My Hollywood crush is… Long dead. Dig up her bones!
We could fix the economy by… Ignore it. It’ll fix itself, just like the environment, poverty and AIDS.
I think publishers are . . . Brave, brave souls.
Vincent Hobbes is… Hairy.