Serious Moonlight

“Well I’m not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity.”

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Gordon Highland

Gordon Highland


Beth Maloney

Beth Maloney


by Craig Wallwork

 Craig Wallwork


Michael DeVito

Michael DeVito

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson

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Heath Lowrance

Heath Lowrance


Heath Lowrance

Richard Thomas


Michael Gonzalez

Michael Gonzalez



Sarah Read


Curiouser and Curiouser: Cake or pie? Why?

Sarah Read: Cake! Because people look at you weird when you slather frosting on pie. I’m much better at making pie, though. When I was still dating my husband, his grandfather recommended we marry on account of my pear cranberry pie.

C&C: Pie is better, I think you got the right skill set if two different ones are required to make cake or pie. And yet you didn’t hesitate! What’s the worst thing you’ve ever cooked?

SR: I think this works out well. I can woo others with pie, and have all the cake for myself. Everybody wins.
I actually don’t cook very much. My husband does most of the cooking. If you ask my eldest, the worst thing I’ve ever made is when I put peas in the macaroni and cheese. And I bet my husband would say it’s the stew I made with red cabbage that turned the broth purple. It still tasted fine, I thought. It was just extremely purple. I may have overdone the cabbage a bit.

C&C: Is there anything you can’t leave the house without?

SR: I have nine fountain pens that go with me everywhere. Well, I have a few more than nine pens, but only nine of them go with me. I’m forever trying to narrow it down to five, but it’s a losing battle. They all have a different color of ink in them. And I have enough notebooks to feed a small country. I hand write everything–usually several drafts on paper before I ever type a word. I just think better on paper. The soft friction of the nib, watching the ink soak in–it fires my brain up. The only down side is that I’m at an elevated risk of dying and having my terrible drafts discovered. Every now and then, when I’m cleaning, I destroy an old, full journal.

C&C: Oh PLEASE don’t destroy any more drafts! The trunk of old bad writings, thats our Jacob Marley rattling, heavy chain. It’s also proof that we’ve put a ridiculous amount of time into things, in a good way. What was the first thing you ever wrote that you *didn’t* think completely sucked, and thought “I could make this better and do something with this”?

SR: Well, I have to destroy some of the drafts, or my family will someday end up the subject of a tragic documentary. If the draft is awful, but the idea is good, I’ll jot the idea down in yet a different notebook, before destroying the notebook of awful words. I’m not doing anything that other authors don’t do–they just use the delete key where I use a box cutter.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint a single piece where I decided I could fix it up and make something of it. I kind of have to hit that point from scratch every time. But I did write a story in college–the first new story I’d written in years–that gave me that “oh yeah, this is what I should be doing” feeling. And then I had a baby and didn’t write again for more years. But I came back to it. And I’m still working on that damn story. I love it, though. It won’t get the box cutter.

C&C: What’s the most favorite thing you ever knitted?

SR: I play with yarn a lot. I knit, crochet, weave, and spin yarn on a giant old-fashioned spinning wheel. Like the one in Sleeping Beauty. One of my favorite things to do is to find antique textiles, reverse-engineer them, write the pattern, then make a new one from that pattern. I’ve got a few of those published out in the world, as well as a few of my own original designs. I’m a professional pattern editor, for a living. I’m the designated family clothier in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and I probably have enough yarn to save us all.

C&C: The stuff about the spinning wheel makes me think about the Three Fates. How did you get started with spinning and weaving and writing patterns?

SR: I always feel tied into a collective myth when I’m spinning or weaving or yarning. So much of the way we talk about our history revolves around textiles. And then of course stories are threads woven into webs, and spinners, weavers, and storytellers all share the spider as our symbol. It just all feels right. And I get my best story ideas when I’m at the wheel.
I first started making cloth because I was bored. But that first time I took string and made cloth, I felt like a wizard. It was so expressive and so practical at the same time–it could be art and craft in equal measure. And once I learned one way, I had to start learning all the others, because I’m like that. There are still a few I need to learn.

C&C: How old are your babies?

SR: My eldest son is seven–he just started 2nd grade. My youngest is just about six months, though he’s closer to four months, adjusted. He was rather early, though not as early as he tried to be. He tried to make a break for it at 19 weeks, but they sewed the exit shut and I spent the rest of the pregnancy on bed rest–the last month of that in the hospital. You’d think I’d get a lot of writing done in that time, but I was too anxious. I needed very much to be outside of my head. I think I’ve seen all of Netflix. Little dude was in the NICU for awhile, and I was in bed for another 6 weeks recovering from the birth. I’ve basically been in bed since last Halloween. I feel like I’ve melted. But we’d been trying to have a second child since our eldest was weaned, so after six years of treatments and losses and all kinds of science, we feel pretty lucky to have him at all. I’m terrible at making babies, I guess, but I’ve made good ones. No more, though.

C&C: What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently, and why?

SR: The Babadook. I think it is a beautiful, raw image of families dealing with trauma and emotional distress. The exhaustion, the loneliness, the building anxiety, the sense of losing control. And most of all, the way they care for each other, even through the ugliness. They find their strength in each other. They can’t defeat the monster, but they can stare it down–face it, and learn how to deal with it. Even though it’s always right there, in the house. As long as they take care of each other, they can beat it. Over and over. It’s a really lovely metaphor. But it’s also, at face value, just a damn fine monster movie. I saw a lot of people complaining about not being able to see the monster, or the kid being annoying, and I feel bad that they missed the whole damn movie. I just wanted to give that kid a hug. And then build monster traps with him.

C&C: Who was your first best friend?

SR: My very first kindred spirit friend was (and still is because BFF) Alicia. We met in seventh grade. She also read “weird stuff” like horror and fantasy and sci fi, and we spent the next three years in a world of our own making, until adulthood started to sneak into our heads. Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent with her. We went on magical journeys, which were meandering hikes with random rules like “every time you come to a rock bigger than a baseball, turn left, every time you come to a patch of snow, turn right”. Sometimes that meant wading across a half-frozen pond while carrying a cat. You had to wear every feather you found, somehow. We convinced our junior high we were witches. We took the silver medal in the Earth Sciences exam in Science Olympics. We won for best performance one year at the Denver MileHiCon costume contest (it involved a lot of blood capsules). We were a good team. She lives far away, now, but we still see each other a few times a year. She has two boys as well, so instead of going on magical journeys, we mostly give lots of baths. It’s still all pretty magical, though. I miss our wildness very much.

C&C: If you could go back and do/finish one more adventure with your best friend, as a kid and not an adult, what would you do?

SR: You know, we did leave one of our adventures unfinished. It was when I lived in Switzerland, and she came to visit me. My mom took us, and my little brother, to see the Matterhorn. Only we didn’t make it there, because my mom fell and broke both of her ankles. Mom had to be rushed down the mountain in an ambulance and was sent straight into surgery. So there were we three kids stranded in this tiny Swiss mountain town. We went door to door looking for a free room for the night, and finally we were taken in by a Catholic monastery. The next few nights we shared a cot in the hospital, while we waited for my dad to get to us from England, where he was on business. And then Alicia had to go home. I’ve still never seen the Matterhorn. I’d love to finish that adventure. I think we were off to a pretty good start.






Rob Hart


Curiouser and Curiouser: What’s your favorite part in the movie Frank? It might be easier to ask if you have a favorite line…

Rob Hart: My absolute favorite is this exchange:

Jon: The torment he went through to make the great music.

Frank’s Mom: The torment didn’t make the music. He was always musical. If anything it slowed him down.

It’s a very romantic notion that art needs to come from a place of pain or can only exist when it’s filling something that’s broken. And good art can come from places like that. But people under estimate how much is ass-in-seat work (most of it) versus how much is divine angelic inspiration birthed by drugs or depression (not a whole lot).

That’s the moment when the movie went from very very funny to really profound and important.

C&C: It is exhausting to deal with the whole “tortured, mentally ill alcoholic” persona as the only legitimate path to true artistry. I loved that about Frank, too. There was joy in his Head, and that there was a hindrance to it coming out. But if you were told you had to have a “gritty” or “checkered” past as a backstory for your book jackets, what would your fake past be? Don’t say circus roustie. I call that backstory.

RH: I recently read an article in the New York Times about a group of environmentalists who chase down and stop illegal fishing trawlers. It’s totally a vigilante thing, because the laws governing the sea are sort of piecemeal and confusing. And at one point they were chasing this notorious vessel through a part of the ocean so dangerous and remote it’s called the Shadowlands. And I don’t even like the ocean but it made me want to be a vigilante boat captain.
C&C: How did you meet your wife?

RH: We worked at the same newspaper–I was a reporter and she was an intern. And I had a bit of a crush on her but she was involved with someone.

We stayed friends, even after I took a gig working in the paper’s Albany bureau, and then one weekend I came home and she was single and we got together and it went from there.

C&C: Do you have a hair maintenance routine? Products and a schedule and all that?

RH: None. I dodged a genetic bullet. My dad is losing his hair. Both of my younger brothers are losing their hair. I have pretty good hair and I don’t have to put junk in it. Life is good. I’m going gray and I am so totally fine with that. I can live with gray hair. It makes me feel fancy and distinguished.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

RH: Right now: A Swiss Army knife.

When my daughter was in the hospital recovering from surgery, my wife and I would order take-out so we didn’t have to be away from the room for too long. And one day we got Chinese Mexican, along with Jarritos, which is a Mexican fruit-flavored soft drink. The bottles aren’t twist-off and the nurses’ station didn’t have a bottle opener. Surprise surprise. I can open a bottle with a lighter but no one had a lighter. I was going to MacGuyver it when a doctor turned around and was like “Use this,” and he handed me a Swiss Army knife.

At that moment I realized how insane it was that I didn’t carry one. It’s great for opening bottles and cutting things and slicing my finger open accidentally.
C&C: Speaking of slicing fingers, have you ever had stitches or broken any bones? What was your most serious injury?

RH: I have never broken a bone, and apparently there’s a reason for that: So my jaw is misaligned. At one point a long time ago my dentist thought he would need to break it and reset it, so that my teeth didn’t wear away or the joints wouldn’t go all wonky or something. The good news is we’ve since abandoned that insane, terrifying course.

But at the time, he said that my bone structure was so dense he wasn’t sure if he could break it conventionally.

I don’t know what he was basing that on, or what the science was there, but I have to assume that means maybe I am a superhero?

Most of my injuries are kitchen related lately. I burnt myself real good taking a lamb roast out of the oven this past Easter. Last year I cut off a tiny bit of the tip of my finger dicing garlic for curry. But yeah, then sometimes I’m absentmindedly playing with my knife and then I’m like hey what’s that oh I’m bleeding again!

No major major injuries. I guess technically the blown disk in my lower back (a neurosurgeon referred to it as “shredded” and asked me if I fell of a roof or something [which, no, I did not]), but you can’t even see that by looking at me, and what’s the point of bragging about an injury no one can see?
C&C: Has being a dad made you less of a douchebag, in a general sense?

RH: I hope so. It’s made me more mindful of parents whose kids are having a meltdown in public. I used to think it was the worst noise ever and those parents needed to get their shit together. Now I understand how utterly irrational and unreasonable babies are.

But it’s also made me more mindful of wanting to have a positive influence on the world and make sure I’m building something good for her. It made me want to write stuff that’s more hopeful. I’m even getting into a YA fantasy series right now, because I want her to have something to read when she’s a kid.

I always liked kids but was also happy to not have one and was on the fence for a while about this whole thing, and it’s amazing how having one just re-wires your brain. Sometimes when I’m at work I get sad because I can’t play with her right at that moment, and then I flip through goofy pictures of her on my phone and that helps a little.
C&C: What’s the coolest thing about your baby girl?

RH: Anything and everything.

I was having this conversation with my wife just this morning. Ninety-five percent of what she does is incredible and adorable. Pretty much everything but the pooping and the screeching and when she tries to rip my beard off my face. Everything else is great.

I’m so excited to have a girl. When we found out a few people were like, “Oh, are you disappointed?” Like just because I’m a dude I should want to have a son.

Fuck that. Having a daughter is great. She’s going to be the world’s first superhero. I have proof: My sister’s friend does cosplay and made her a Wonder Woman outfit. This is literally the cutest thing that has ever existed. Tell me I’m wrong. I’m not.

C&C: Do you have any tattoos?

RH: Four.

Shoulders: A dragon that morphs into a Celtic knot (I was 19), a tribal phoenix (to mark the completion of my first terrible unpublished book).

Upper arm: A skull and crossbones with ‘trust me’ written underneath (a play on a Vonnegut sketch).

Left forearm: A hydrogen atom. That’s the most recent. It’s the symbol on Dr. Manhattan’s forehead in Watchmen, but it’s also the most basic element in the universe, and I like that. It was also a celebration of getting a job where I could have a tattoo on my forearm and that was okay.

I’m in the market for a few more. Something to mark my first published novel. Someone for my daughter, now that she’s had her second–and probably final–heart surgery. I’m meeting with a tattoo artist this weekend!
C&C: Since I sent the first question, you’ve probably met with your tattoo artist. What’s the plan, Stan?

RH: It’s an old-school anatomical illustration of a heart, for my daughter.

I’m also planning to get a tattoo for New Yorked. And I’m on the verge of thinking I should get a tattoo for every book I get published? I’m still not sure about that. It sounds romantic right now but it might get tiresome down the line. I do want to get one for the book, because it’s my first published novel.

The heart comes first. That’s the one that feels more immediate.


Rob Hart

Usman Tanveer Malik



Curiouser and Curiouser: Where are you on your Buffy the Vampire Slayer journey, and what’s been your favorite season/storyline so far?

Usman Malik: I’m almost done. Last few episodes of season 7 left.

Season 5 with Gloria the Bipolar goddess was my favorite. It was (mostly) smart, intelligent, and layered. I think the big finale with Buffy jumping into the interdimensional portal was really where the series came to an end. After that, it was just extra stuffing, although I did like Buffy and Spike’s romantic tension in season 6 and 7.


C&C: How did the twists and turns of life take you from Pakistan to FLORIDA? I’m not making fun of Florida, it’s just that most “I didn’t think it was a bad idea” news stories from the last five years has come out of there...

UM: Day job mostly, and the weather. I was in Minnesota for 3 yrs before I moved here. Florida is pretty cool actually. There’s weird stuff here, but also a wild beauty that I appreciate especially when I (sometimes) go hiking and trail running.


C&C: What was your favorite childhood toy, and why?

UM: Storybooks in a bag that I slung over my shoulders and carried everywhere.


C&C: Do you remember your first crush?

UM: The Last Unicorn when she becomes a woman in the cartoon. I remember my face turning hot, and feeling surreal and out of breath. I crawled under my bed, so no one could see me in that state.


C&C: What’s your biggest fear? And I don’t mean failure or something intangible, I mean like the dark, or spiders.

UM: Illness, I think. Also, the dark. I can’t sleep without a nightlight if I’m alone in the house.


C&C: What kind of nightlight do you have?

UM: I just use a regular lamp placed at the far corner of the room. Only to be used in case of total aloneness.


C&C: Do you collect anything?

UM: Definitely books. At one point, I found myself collecting bookends, but I’m mostly over that now.


C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

UM: Cellphone. Peanuts.


C&C: If you have an hour of free time, time to kill, what are you most likely to do with it?

UM: Read a book. Take a long walk. Browse Facebook (an unfortunate hobby )


C&C: Who was your least favorite character on Buffy, and why? I’m not going to ask who your favorite is – though you’re more than welcome to tell me – because the correct answer to that is Spike or Anya.

UM: I think I didn’t like Angel at all. No idea why. He was too goody-two-shoes for me. Spike was obviously my favorite.



Usman Malik

“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” novella by Usman Malik (free to read) at


Damien Angelica Walters



Curiouser and Curiouser: Tell me about your fascination with the painting “Flaming June” by Leighton.

Damien Angelica Walters: I saw her for the first time on a greeting card when I was in my mid-twenties. The card itself was one of those any-occasion blank cards, and the colors, the imagery, captured me and haven’t let go since. I bought the card and kept it on my desk, and then a few months later, I found a larger image on a calendar. I bought it, carefully cut out the page, and framed it. I found a larger print a few months after that, which replaced the smaller calendar image, and later, found one even larger. I paid a stupid amount of money to have her professionally framed and she’s been on my living room wall ever since. Something in her speaks to my heart and soul, that’s all I know.


C&C: Those are the best kinds of connection to art, I think: the visceral, pure and unexplainable kind. Are there any other particular pieces/artists that you’ve been drawn to this way?
DW: John Reinhard Weguelin’s Lesbia is another one. While I don’t have quite the same visceral reaction as I do with Flaming June, I am still drawn to it in an inexplicable way and I’ve a print hanging in my office. With respect to more modern work, I have a print of Galen Dara’s Medusa in my office as well, but that has an emotional resonance for me because she created it to accompany my story “Always, They Whisper” in Lightspeed Magazine.


C&C: What do you have in your pockets? A lucky charm? Do you have a lucky charm?

DW: Alas, my yoga pants have no pockets, and I don’t have a lucky charm, per se, but I do have several xenomorph figures on my desk and a plush facehugger hanging in the doorway to my office.


C&C: How do you feel about musicals?

DW: Pauses to sing. “Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days. I was beautiful then. I remember a time I knew what happiness was. Let the memory live again.” I’m sorry, what was the question?


C&C: Wow!! That was a quick and definitive answer. Are you a fan of theatre at large?
DW: I’m a fan, but not necessarily a huge fan. I was very fortunate to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore in the 90s. Ted Neeley, who originally played the role of Jesus on Broadway in 1971, reprised his role, and it was an amazing show.

My daughter was in the theater program at school and played Cinderella in Into the Woods, and I was able to witness not only the performance, but all the hard work beforehand. It gave me a different sort of appreciation for theater.


C&C: Do you sleep in socks?

DW: Nope, nope, nope. Just the thought makes me uncomfortable. I prefer to sleep unencumbered by fabric.


C&C: Do you have pets?

DW: I have two pit bulls, Kane and Ripley, both rescues. They’re seventy-five and fifty pounds, respectively, and while Ripley is a lap dog, Kane waits until you get up from the sofa, and then he steals your spot.


C&C: Do you like to color?
DW: Not really, but I like to doodle in my notebook when I’m brainstorming a story.


C&C: What do you doodle when brainstorming?

DW: Typically I doodle geometric shapes. Not very exciting, I know.


C&C: Have you broken any bones or ever had stitches?


DW: I’ve never broken a bone, but I’ve had stitches. The first time, I was two and had a tumor removed from the side of my neck. The story goes it took 200 stitches and given the size of the scar, I believe it. The second time, I was sixteen and put my hand/arm through a window (not on purpose!). The largest cut, on my forearm, took seventeen stitches to close, I can’t remember how many stitches the cut on my index finger required, but I had another on my forearm that only took one, notable only because it was done without anesthetic. Why bother with one needle stick when it will only take two to sew it up? And lastly, I had surgery on two toes (I had bits of bone removed) about fifteen years ago and had stitches then, but honestly, that’s a boring story, unless I mention that I was able to watch the surgery, which was neat.


Chris Deal


Curiouser and Curiouser: What’s your favorite animal and why?

Chris Deal: I have a lot of favorite animals, just depends what animal I’m thinking about at any one time. First, dogs. Why? Dogs are great. They love you no matter how you feel about yourself. Take care of a dog and they’ll take care of you. Related, but wolves are just cool. Second, bears, mainly because I want to ride a bear into battle. Also, would you consider bigfoot an animal? I’ve been wanting to write a bigfoot piece for years, and have the basics down in my head, but I just haven’t gotten to it. I guess I should note that I believe in bigfoot unconditionally. There will never be proof it isn’t out there somewhere. There are still a lot of places man has never stepped foot in on this earth, so there will always be room out there for him.

C&C: Bigfoot is awesome. We have a lot of Bigfoot enthusiasts in my area. Do you believe the Yeti is to Bigfoot what polar bears are to say, brown bears or Grizzlies? And what would be your ideal Bigfoot encounter? I know you wouldn’t shoot one.

CD: I think, yeah, it could be a case of two separate species in the same genus, or maybe the same species just in a different landscape. There are a lot of real out there theories about bigfoot, stuff I don’t truck with. Bigfoot being alien drones, trans-dimensional shaman type of stuff. Personally, if I were to encounter one, I’m hoping it to be a situation of where I see it from a bit of a distance. Close enough to really see, but not close enough for it to get my scent and react as a cornered animal.

C&C: Do you believe in astral projection? It’s the only explanation I have for the way you seem to be in all different places all over the world and so accurately write about them.

CD: I believe in a lot of weird things, but astral projection was never really one of them. I think the idea is possible, as in an infinite universe most things are, but I’ve never had an experience with astral projection or NDEs or psychic anything. I guess, when it comes to writing from all over the world, there is a lot of research involved, the foods, the lingo, the places, the history. I won’t write about a place I am not interested in.

C&C: Since moving to Chicago from North Carolina, what are some of the dialect differences you’ve observed? I, for example, do not believe “toque” is an actual word.

CD: They call soda “pop”. That’s weird. It’s either soda or Coke, even if we’re talking Sprite or Pepsi, it’s a Coke.

C&C: This interview has been waiting to happen for like three years. Between your lack of pushiness and my lack of follow-through, we’ve got a lot of information to get through. What’s different now than in 2012, if I’d have interviewed you then?

CD: I’ve been working the day job a lot since 2012, and my writing has slowed down, but I’ve taken that time to be more focused, to plot and push myself to be better. I focus on individual sentences a lot more, trying to get them perfect before I go to the next. That might be a bad approach, and sometimes I try and just push everything out in one sitting. I’m always working on something or another, though, mainly this novel that I think I am afraid of. It’ll sit for weeks and I’ll come back and tweak it, add a little more. I know where it’s going, but getting there, being true to these characters, that’s been a bit like pulling teeth. Part of me thinks I need to shelve it for and dive into another idea, but I want to see if I can get it done. Confidence is a big hurdle when it comes to writing for me, trying to do the best I possibly can, but I’m my biggest critic. Since 2012 I have published Incarnations with Broken River Books, which is run the highly awesome J. David Osborne. That put me on a label that has published heroes of mine, guys I respect endlessly. I still feel like a pretender at this, but I’m striving to kill that feeling. We’ll see if that ever happens. Incarnations, though, was a sort of greatest hits, the best stories I wrote, those I am proud of. Mostly longer pieces for me, a few real short ones. I’ve been trying to break away from flash fiction, but a few pieces still get written.

C&C: I think Nicholas Sparks is maybe the only writer who doesn’t feel like a pretender sometimes, so not always having full-on confidence in yourself is a good thing. But pretending is how we get there, right? This is a clumsy segueway, but what were your favorite pretend-games to play as a kid?

CD: Honestly, I pretended a lot. Still do. I would pretend like I was in the X-Men or X-Files and come up with stories. In elementary school when they first gave us access to computers, I’d get in trouble for using the word processor too much as opposed to the math games or Oregon Trail. I even would come up with scenarios and have my mom type them out for me an this amazing typewriter she had. I loved that thing, it was the most amazing piece of technology to me when I was a kid.

C&C: How did you meet your wife?

CD: We lived around a mile apart at one point but never met, it was only through friends I made that I later met her. She had moved it Illinois and was visiting her sister back in North Carolina, and that’s how we met. I was infatuated with her at first sight.

C&C: Do you collect anything?

CD: I used to collect coins. I don’t actively look for them any more, or invest in them any longer, but I keep my collection close at hand. Nothing too valuable, I just looked for pieces from interesting countries or times. I have several Soviet era pieces, pre-Castro Cuban, a few dirty slabs of metal from the Roman times you could get in batches off Ebay that you can just barely make out the faces of long dead kings. Several great Mexican pesos. Years back I worked in a coffee shop, and one of my regulars was a great old Navy vet, and he took to bringing in coins he had duplicates of, which included a Nazi nickel, not sure the right name, but it’s interesting just for the morbidity of it. For a while I had a decent series of Silver Eagles going, but hard times called and they had to go.

C&C: Can you shoot? Let’s talk about guns and stuff.

CD: Guns are great if you know enough to respect them. Trigger discipline, knowing well enough not to point a gun at anything unless you’re going to point the trigger, check, check, and recheck if it’s loaded. Even if you just unloaded it, check again. Because of Illinois laws, I can’t go shooting until I get a FOID card, which I’m patiently waiting for. Guns were always a part of my family, mainly just to shoot and practice with, protection. We never hunted. My dad saw no need for it. We fished all the time though. It was just something we were expected to know, how to shoot. My dad had a few friends with land we could go out on and set up targets, try out pistols or rifles. I always was getting my dad to take me to the gun shows, up until I noticed the weird stuff that was there. KKK coins, racist books, people asking if we were okay with how the country is going. I couldn’t go back to one after that, it just lost all the fun. Still, once that FOID card comes in I’m thinking of getting a shotgun or a maybe a Glock to practice with. Turns out you can’t even by ammo up here without one of them cards.

C&C: Gun shows ARE bizarre. It’s just rows of white dudes at folding tables wearing camo in the heat of some warehouse, selling laser sights and weird bullets and talking about End Days. Do you think we’re coming to the end of our Apocalypse fetish? It’s been awhile since Y2K didn’t take us all out, and zombies have peaked in pop culture, do you think people are giving up on the pulled-plug and moving on to other fantasy scenarios?

CD: There will always be a part of society that is interested, if not obsessed, with the idea of end times. It’s a major factor in religion, and at the same time it lets those who are tired of the day to day grind to think about what they would do if they had the total freedom that the end of things, were they to survive of course. We’ll always have books and movies about the end of things, it’s one of the most popular video game genres as well, what with Fallout 4 finally hitting the shelves just a couple months after the Mad Max game. Hell, I’m currently neck deep in Dying Light, a post-apocalypse game with zombies. Post-apocalyptic themes seem perfect for video games, in that it is a bit more direct in the fantasy fulfillment. Zombies themselves may move to the back of the horror pack, but there are so many holes in the living dead for us to insert our fears that they will never go away. I really think, if anything, we’re going to have more post-apocalypse fiction than less of it, but there will be some other idea, more likely old than new, that will come around and capture our imaginations for a while. All I know is I want to see a lot more bigfoot fiction. Next chance you get, ask Stephen Graham Jones to write some.


Gabino Iglesias


Curiouser and Curiouser: You posted online recently about “tiny masterpieces.” Tell me what you were thinking of. Have you thought much of Victorian eye portraits? That’s immediately what I assumed you meant.

Gabino Iglesias: Victorian eye portraits are wonderfully creepy. I wasn’t thinking about them then, but I’m definitely thinking about them now. Anyway, I was thinking about really small things that are masterpieces and we tend to more or less ignore because of their size/duration/apparent insignificance in some contexts: a superb guitar solo, a 55-word story that leaves you breathless, a piece of quartz, a really good brownie, tiny plastic dinosaurs, etc. The Big Picture is important, but if we forget to stop and be marveled by the colors and strange appendages on a bug once in a while, then we lose context and balance. Yeah, tiny masterpieces are cool.


C&C: Do you keep and collect tiny things? Do you have tiny boxes filled with tiny stones or hands from watches or human hair?

GI: The only thing I really collect is books, but I’ve also been known to pick up and bring home weird small things. Shiny rocks, dry insect carcasses, marbles, old keys, etc. I used to have a lot of random stuff and parting ways with my treasures was hard, but then I moved to the US with an old laptop, my guitar, and a few shirts and leaving stuff behind became easier. Now I pick things up and bring them home, but then get rid of it when I need space for more books.


C&C: Do you take photographs as much as you write?

GI: For a few years, I photographed much more than I wrote. I’ve worked as a photojournalist a few times and my photographic work received a prize by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena many years ago and was represented by Art Connectors in Austin for a while. Now I do it for fun once in a while and write more than I shoot. I’ve been riding the bus for 7 years now, and one day it just clicked: I can share some of the stuff I see with the world using just my phone. Since then, I give folks things like awesome piles of garbage, broken things, and nature.


C&C: How do you feel about graffiti?

GI: A few years ago I thought of graffiti as either artistic expression or ugly attempts at it (depending on the quality of the work). Then I worked at a tattoo shop and the main artist was also a painter and graffiti artists. He brought books to the shop and I ended up reading about the history of graffiti in New York and things like he evolution of lettering and tagging wars. Now I always try to read graffiti as well as enjoy it. I also somewhat dislike cities or parts of cities where there is no street art.

C&C: Who was your first crush?

GI: She had no name. It was a brunette gymnast (model?) in a sportsy folder I got for school. She was perfect.


C&C: Are you afraid of any animals? Why or why not?

GI: I have a healthy respect for some animals. I’ve been too close to a shark and have seen what some snake bites can do, so I respect and don’t mess with the space between us. Every time I see a video of some idiot getting thrown into the air by a buffalo because he got too close or losing a limb to a crocodile because he or she thought they could be faster and put up a show, I giggle because stupidity should always be painful.


C&C: What exactly does that mean – “too close to a shark”?

GI: I was spearfishing near some rocks in a place called Icacos. There was a very tall reef wall. I was going around it and suddenly spotted what I’m almost sure was a blue shark. It was probably somewhere between 8 and 9 feet, but it looked more like a 20 feet monster to me. Not gonna try to guess how close we came to touch, but it was way too close for comfort. He turned right and moved away. I remember staying put as it swam away and hearing my heart pounding in my ears. I wasn’t really in the mood for more fishing that day.


C&C: Can you play any musical instruments?

GI: Literature and music are the only two constants in my life. That’s good because they’re also two of the things I care most about. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15 or so. I love to play bongos and can do a decent job on congas. I’d love to play the piano, but that requires the kind of time I don’t have.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

GI: A pen, random pieces of paper, and my eye drops. Oh, and secrets.


C&C: Cake or pie? And why?

GI: Cake. Cake and a glass of milk. Folks are too damn fond of putting fruits and other assorted crap in pies. Give me fresh fruit and then cake. Keep your pie, especially your pumpkin pie. I have a thing about pumpkin-everything culture. I won’t get into that because then angry sorority girls who love their PSLs will come for my head, but yeah, cake all the way. Cake is soft and moist and you can put stuff inside and top of it. You can also cut it without crap falling out and then having to chase your dessert all over the plate. Plus, frosting. Cake wins.

Thanks for letting me talk about cake!




Gabino Iglesias

Tracie Morell


Curiouser and Curiouser: My notes say “boobs” but I know that’s my way of reminding myself to ask about your tattoos…

Tracie Morell: Everyone asks me about my boobs. They are quite lovely and purposeful. I did nurse my children and would whip out a tit anywhere when my little ones were hungry. But I think you aren’t asking about my mammary glands function. The tattoos have a beautiful story, not as beautiful as breast feeding, but close.

Across my chest are two lotus flowers and a Chinese ideogram for “courage.” The ideogram came first and years later I had the lotuses etched into my skin on both sides of the ideogram. When my oldest son was just a little baby (he’s 18 now), I went to Florida to stay with family for a while after a nasty and abusive breakup with the baby daddy. There was this amusement park called “Old Town” not far from my relative’s house which I was staying at, and I would take my son for walks there almost daily. There was this neat little shop there called “The Black Market.” They sold all sorts of unusual things and I enjoyed looking through the trinkets they had. I befriended the woman working the cash stand. She was an unmarried, pregnant Chinese woman. We became friends and we would share our troubles with each other. She was really the only friend I made while I was there. The time came when I was ready to return home, so as a parting gift she wrote a haiku for me titled “Courage.” She wrote it in Chinese, so I had to have her read it to me. I was so moved by the poem that I told her that I would always keep it close to my heart. Later that day, I had the title tattooed on my chest.

Years later, I had the lotus flowers tattooed on either side of the ideogram. The lotus symbolizes the beauty which grows out of dirty stagnant waters. I like the metaphor. Life is hard in Erie, and I felt like I needed to have a constant reminder etched on my chest to make me remember the beauty that emerges from the muck and filth of life.

I have several tattoos and most of them have a literary reference. On my left arm I have a full sleeve which is imagery based on Paradise Lost and Duino Elegies. But my favorite tattoo is the title of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College—“This is Water.” I am a huge DFW fan, and that speech offers such sound advice on how to approach daily life that I felt tattooing it right below my collar bone would force me to remember the key points in that speech. Unfortunately, he didn’t heed his own advice…maybe if he did, we’d still have him today.

C&C: I love Wallace, too. I think the medication fiasco sort of turned his situation and made him unable to see his own way out – but that’s an entirely different conversation for a different day. As far as medications and psychological disorders, fetishization of doctors – what do you think about the current obsession with pharmaceuticals? There’s a pill for everything. Western medicine has it all figured out….

TM: That is a complicated question. In some ways, I think that the pharmaceutical companies are evil and the need to take a pill for everything under the sun is ridiculous. I did peace work in South Africa in my early 20’s, and I could tell you some horror stories as to why big pharm is just evil, but that could be a book. At the same time, I have suffered from severe depression all my life. Well, at least I thought it was severe depression because that’s what the doctors told me I had. Last year, I had a break-down and admitted myself in a crisis residential unit for a week, because I was having chronic panic attacks and couldn’t tolerate them any longer. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and began medication just for that. I was skeptical because I had tried a litany of antidepressants over the years and nothing seemed to work or they would cause more problems than anything, so I refused to take anything for years and years, but once I started being treated for the anxiety, my depression disappeared.

I honestly believe if I could live the life I dream of (owning my own yoga studio, spending my days doing yoga and writing, with a garden in the back to grow my own food) I would have no need for medication, but at the moment, that is not a possibility. I have very strong coping skills for these panic attacks that plague me, but it isn’t always possible to drop into a hip opener (all anxiety and emotional pain is stored in the hips, and it is almost impossible to have any anxiety or sadness if your hips are open) every time my heart skips a beat or my breathing becomes labored. Yoga and meditation is the best medicine I have found for all mental health issues. At the moment, I am medicated only for anxiety but I don’t think I will be medicated for the rest of my life, because I know how to self soothe through my yoga practice. I know what I need my life to look like in order to manage my anxiety and panic. I just don’t currently have the means to shape my life into what I need to keep the level of calm I require to avoid triggering my anxiety. But I remain optimistic that I will find a way to get there someday.

Anxiety is misunderstood by many people. I’m not haunted by nightmares, self-loathing, or chronic depression (well, at least not now that I know what I am dealing with). Anxiety manifests in very real physical reactions to stimuli. It’s not one of those disorders that people say “is all in your head.” It’s in your racing heart, in labored breathing; it’s in tremors through your whole body, until it escalates to a full-blown panic attack, where you literally feel like you are going to die. Sometimes, you can figure out what triggers you and learn how to avoid the triggers as much as possible, but there are other times where a panic attack can hit you while you are sleeping and you wake up ready to call 911 because you think you are having a heart attack. Anxiety is a very physical ailment.

In many ways, I think our culture of “more, more, more” contributes to the vast majority of people suffering from psychological disorders. I’ve learned talk therapy is the best way to cope, but sometimes people just don’t have access to a good therapist or they just don’t know how to find a good fit with a therapist. I’ve been a therapy junky pretty much all of my life. I was sexually abused as a child, and in fifth grade I was hospitalized in a children’s mental health ward, which is where that all came out. That began my lifelong love of talk therapy. Over years and years of therapy, I have learned how to identify my triggers, understand why I react in certain ways to certain stimuli and so on. I guess that I’m lucky in that sense. From all the therapy I’ve done, I understand myself more than the average person, I think.

Living in a culture which is clearly in decline, I think the people who own their mental health issues are at an advantage over the people who seek happiness through material gain, social status, constant need for instant gratification, and/or denial. From what I have observed, every single person I have met struggles with their mental health. I mean, since we live in culture that is so clearly sick, how can people be mentally healthy? If people were able to change their lives through meditation, yogic practices, and connection with the earth, instead of pill popping, our culture would turn around.

C&C: How is the refrigerator project coming along? Do you trick out a lot of the furnishings in your house?

TM: At the moment, the project is at a standstill, because I didn’t make sure I had enough supplies to finish it. I tend to jump into my projects without prior planning, so sometimes I have to collect the supplies to finish. Yes, my husband and I like to make our furnishings our own. We have a lot of “outdated” hand-me-downs, so we like to customize them. He and I are both the creative types, so we like to recreate everything in our home, which is a 100 year old cape cod that needs a ton of TLC. We like to make or refinish all of the furnishings we have in our house. Most of my bookshelves are made from found items that I repurposed. My mother-in-law used to joke that we should take pictures of the stuff we redo and send them into Sharpie because we use Sharpies in all of our projects…except the refrigerator, I haven’t used Sharpies on that project. I also crochet and knit, so my house is loaded with old lady doilies and lacey curtains I’ve made.

C&C: Do you have pets?

TM: If the countless teenagers who are constantly streaming in and out of my house don’t count as pets, we have two cats. Buffy the Mousey Slayer is a muted calico. I’m her human. Being the type of cat who likes to get you comfortable with her so you think she loves you and then she scratches your face off, she is kind of an asshole. We also have a tortie that is the sweetest little kitty, so we call her Little Kitty. She likes to talk and sometimes she will talk and talk and talk for hours. My husband, Rich, is her person, so she always snubs me the second he walks into the room. She the type of cat who freaks out if a tenth of the food is missing from the dish and she will follow you around meowing until you fill it back up.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

TM: I don’t have pockets. I live in yoga pants.

C&C: Do you remember your dreams?

TM: I have very vivid dreams. Sometimes I can remember them, if I write them down immediately when I wake up, but generally they are lost within the time it takes to make my first cup of coffee. Here’s a dream that I wrote down: Kris Risto, my friend, the surrealist painter who illustrated all of my poems in Matilda’s Battle Waltz kidnapped me and dropped me off somewhere in the middle of Seattle and told me to find my way home. On my journey across the country to get back to Erie, Kris would throw these enormous parties for me, and force me to play the clarinet (I played clarinet for 12 years when I was a child and I was always terrible at it). I don’t remember all of the details, but it was bizarre and surreal.

C&C: You seem to have a lot of pride in the art community and historic significance of Erie – tell me a little about this place from which you come!

TM: Ahh yes, Erie is an amazing town. We’ve recently been dubbed the “Little Detroit” because of our sky-rocketing violent crime rates and gang related homicides. That makes me sad, because all of that is just a symptom of poverty and bad planning on the part of local government. Prior to the onslaught systemic poverty and constant brain-drain, due to the lack of gainful employment in Erie, it was a fantastic place to live and raise a family. My home town is a place with a rich history and defining landscapes. The Battle of Lake Erie was won in our waters during the War of 1812.

I went to Perry Elementary as a child and that is what really instilled my pride in local history. Perry Elementary is named after Commodore Oliver Hazzard Perry who commanded the naval fleet who took down the British which ultimately lead to us winning the war. Since my grade school was named after Perry, the students had the rare opportunity to participate in several events for the city and the Flagship Niagara (which incidentally was not Perry’s ship rather it was under Jessie Elliot’s command, but when Perry’s ship the Lawrence was severely damaged Perry as Commodore took over the command of the Niagara…I didn’t know that until I was an adult and found it interesting that the whole city celebrates Perry as commander of the Niagara when he really was not, but I guess that is kind of typical for Erie to do that sort of thing).

I do have love/hate relationship with Erie. It has this unbelievably beautiful landscape with these morbid names like Misery Bay, Graveyard Pond, Axe Murder Hollow, and so on. I really do think landscape defines the people in this town. We have severe weather patterns with exceptionally long brutal winters. There are however five seasons in this region not four. Like everywhere else we have winter, spring, summer, and fall, but we also have the season of snow and mud. The fifth is the most important to everyone who loves pancakes because the season of snow and mud is the only time of year that maple syrup is made, and the majority of maple syrup is produced in the Great Lakes region.

There’s a children’s novel Miracle on Maple Hill written by Virginia Sorensen about one of the local maple farms Hurry Hill Maple Farm. The novel won a Newbury Award, so the maple farm was turned into part museum and farm. It’s really a cool place. The arts are vibrant in Erie. I think it most has to do with the fact that for six months of the year we are buried under layers of snow and ice and the short time we aren’t buried our landscape it incredibly beautiful with a good mix of urban amenities and natural beauty. There is nothing more beautiful than a Lake Erie sunset (any time of year), and the beaches here roll on for miles.

It seems as though Erites have a thirst to create beautiful things paying homage to the beauty around us. We have everything you could imagine a larger city would have when it comes to arts and history. I’ve often referred to Erie as the Mecca of the Arts because artists are drawn to Erie. Not to mention we are smack in the middle of three prominent metropolitan areas: Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. It really is astounding how much art is created here from theatre to visual arts to poetry. I’m proud to live here and do my part to help preserve the heritage of my home town. I think the arts will indeed save Erie from the blight the politicians have allowed to happen here.

C&C: What’s the best job you ever had? Or the most memorable?

TM: I’m sort of a chameleon. I have has so many jobs in so many different fields. I guess the best paying job was being in Health Care Administration for a nursing home. I was paid more money than I knew how to spend, but I hated every second of it, so when I went on maternity leave, I just never went back. Being a mother is the best job I ever had, and I love every second of parenthood, but I think you want to know about employment.

My favorite place of employment has to be this garage I worked at as a grease monkey for a couple years. I loved it. You’d think being the only woman working with a bunch of mechanics would be uncomfortable at times, but it was like being the only female in a family (which I am very familiar with seeing that I have two sons and my husband at home). There was an ongoing joke among the guys that I was “the manliest man there.” I loved it there and would have stayed forever, but there was “corporate restructuring” and the bigwigs decided to give the axe to all the vaginas and brown people. I’m still a little bitter about it, but that’s the way corporate anything goes…I loathe Corporate America.

C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child?

TM: I really don’t know. We were pretty poor when I was a kid. My dad split when I was like 4, and we never really had much. I had toys, but I was more interested in climbing trees and playing in the mud. I was a real tomboy. My favorite things were my books and journals. Ironically, the man who abused me gave me my first diary. I’ve kept every diary and journal I’ve written, but I don’t ever look at them. Maybe someday I will dig out the box from the basement to read my old journals and diaries, but I haven’t felt the need to do that. Growing up was tough, so I just kind of like keeping them safely boxed up in the basement.

C&C: Do you remember writing your first poem? Or one of your first?

TM: I don’t remember writing my first poem. I know I started writing poetry in second grade, when I got my first diary. It’s strange to think about, but the man who abused me when I was little would write “Roses are Red” poems to me, and that was where I first learned about poetry. I wrote a personal essay about that which instead of sending out for publication, I just posted on Facebook. In high school, I had some of my horrible, angst filled, poetry published in the school’s literary journal. I did have a flare for the drama and wrote some funny pieces too. My favorite bad high school poem is “Ode to Green Jello.”

image     Matilda’s Battle Waltz by Tracie Morell

Sheldon Lee Compton


Curiouser and Curiouser: I was really excited about asking you questions, but when I sat down to make the list I sort of blanked at first, and couldn’t help but flash to that Eddie Izzard Dress to Kill bit when he’s trying to talk to a girl: “Do you like bread? I’ve got knees.” So I’m going to just go with my instincts on the bread thing. DO you like bread? Is gluten a myth, like unicorns?

Sheldon Lee Compton: I love bread. I tried a no-carb diet last month and went about a week without bread while cooking at this restaurant that served these buttery hoagie buns with their sandwiches and it nearly killed me. I’ve cut back on it, though. Carbs are no good for me, personally. As for gluten, I have no idea about what the dangers or benefits or even what it really is well enough to like or dislike it. I like the idea of it being a myth like unicorns, though. I much prefer myth to reality. In fact, I’ve told a lot of my friends they should build their own myths up as large as they can. Tell stories about things they’ve done, true or not, to everyone they can. In fifty years, no one is going to know the difference, and you get to stand out on the family tree, give ancestry researchers a little something to get excited about.

C&C: I very much agree about personal myth. The truth is really inconsequential when compared to good family legend to pass along. Are you cooking up any special myths about yourself that you want to stick, to be told long after you’re gone?

SC: I’ve told a few different versions of things to a few different people, sure. And did so with myth in mind. If I wanted one to stick, it’s that I was one hell of a fighter when I was a young man. The truth is, I fought a lot, but didn’t win very much. Or did I? Well, I fought, anyways. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s slippery. I have scars I attribute to those fights, old breaks in a lot of bones. I have proof. Of scars and old breaks, at least.

C&C: Do you like to go to the movies?

SC: I used to love going to the movies. I mean I was in love with it. Nowadays I go less. It started because I’ve had two back surgeries and just couldn’t handle sitting that long without being able to pause the movie and, well, I wasn’t going to miss a single second, you know? But beyond that, most of the movies that come out at my local theater are just shit. It’s tragic. Remakes of movies and those done poorly. There is no reason to ever remake Poltergeist, you know what I’m saying? None. It was perfect. There’s nothing that a remake can possibly add to that film other than introducing it to another generation in a diluted form. Let these kids watch the original. Don’t fuck them over. It’s just sad. I watch Netflix and Hulu now, and less movies and more television shows. Shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad and Fringe and True Detective. These shows are where you can find actual storytelling talent on-screen today.

C&C: What TV show would you work on, if that turned out to be your fate?

SC:  I’d want to work on either the comeback seasons of either Deadwood or Carnivale. Not sure how much you know about these two shows, but one was a western historical about the town of Deadwood when it still an unincorporated mining community and not much law to go around. Great characters all around. I would like to put words in their mouths, write about that time when the west was still in formation. Carnivale revolved around a traveling freak show. Starred Michael Anderson and a bunch of other great actors. It was set during the dustbowl era and is a story of the fight between good and evil. The ultimate fight, like Stephen King’s The Stand fight between good and evil. But they turn everything on its head, and I would love to write for a show that’s willing to take that risk. Taking risks is what makes writing enjoyable for me. If there was no risk in it, I have no doubt I would have stopped a long, long time ago.

C&C: We come from pretty much the same area, I might be a little north of you, but we share a lot of culture. The culture and people as a whole get a lot of flak, from church to food to language – but little by little I do think we’re making some headway. In your opinion, what’s one of the most misrepresented customs in Appalachia?

SC: I’m honestly not sure. I spend so little time closely dealing with people outside of Eastern Kentucky that I couldn’t rightly say. I guess a lot of our funeral customs are misrepresented, though. The sitting up with the dead, the huge amounts of food that always line the tables, that sense of a jovial gathering of family during services, taking photographs of the dead. These are things I’m sure people not from here look at and must see as possibly disrespectful or, in the case of sitting up with the dead, a further indictment of our perceived lack of intelligence. Oh, they stay up all night at the funeral because of age-old superstitions. See, I told you these people were crazy. I could see people saying that about us, about these traditions. But they’re not looking closely enough and surely never getting to know the very people they are wrongly assuming things about.

C&C: I think one of the best things about funerals that’s still stuck around here is how all other cars still pull over to let the procession pass, and in the opposite lane edge over and stop, out of respect.

SC:  I like that show of respect, the pulling over or slowing down. It can be tricky on the four-lane (what we always call any section of Route 23 where I’m from) because of higher speeds and more traffic, but I like it. I like it because of the show of respect, and how it is mostly an anonymous gesture. I mean, the procession can’t really see you inside your car and, let’s face it, they have their mind on more important things. People will act respectful when facing another person, that’s not much of a stretch. But to take the time to show respect when you really can’t be seen or have anyone really acknowledge it, to me that is a different level of courtesy and humanness.

C&C: Do you have any tattoos?

SC: I surely do. I have six. One on my ring finger of the letter “H” for my great love Heather, one on my right forearm of a phoenix, one is a band of trilobites around my left forearm, one of a four-leaf clover with my son’s name on my left upper arm, one of Raphael’s cherub with my daughter’s name on my right upper arm, and one in memorial for my brother with his name on a license plate on the back of my right upper arm. None of them are color, so I get that good street cred come summertime.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

SC: I have two cell phones. An old iPhone and a less older iPhone 4. On the one I can only make calls. On the other I can only text and get online if I’m around a place that has wi-fi. Why two? It’s a long story, but it has to do with changing phone plans and losing service on one and not being able to let it go. Unusual for me, not accepting change. So, two phones. One in my back pocket and the other in my front pocket.

C&C: Have you ever been punched in the face?

SC: I’ve been punched in the face several times, by several different types of people – women, men, best friends, enemies, strangers, a preacher once, a cousin once by my own request. Okay, I’ll tell a little more about the cousin one. Of all the times I’d been punched in the face I couldn’t remember sporting a nice, deep black eye. I saw a picture once of me with my brother and I had a big shiner in photograph, but I couldn’t remember the details of it, couldn’t remember getting to sport that prize around. So I asked my cousin to punch me directly on my lower eye socket once. This was about five years ago. He’s a legitimate third-degree black belt and he belted me. I wanted an Irish eye patch, one I could remember. What can I say?

C&C: What’s your favorite holiday?

SC: I like Thanksgiving a lot. It’s like Christmas without all the anxiety and traveling. Or at least less expectations. The general goal is to eat. And the food is amazing and there’s lots of it. I will say I’ve grown to like Father’s Day about as much though. It means I can make all the usual mistakes I make throughout the day without getting jumped on as much. I play the hubby and dad card on that day all the way. Also, I usually get some great gifts. I suddenly sound selfish and gluttonous. I suppose I am a little, then.


Sheldon Lee Compton

Revolution John

Jessica Leonard


Curiouser and Curiouser: Do you want to move in as my neighbor? And we could have coffee, and sit around the firepit in the evening and watch the kids chase lightning bugs and stuff? I have great plans, with the house next door reserved for Craig, across the road for my sister, and two friends I want to put cabins in the woods at the back of our property. But the other side is totally open.

Jessica Leonard: YES!!! In fact, I didn’t realize it before now, but I think that’s what I’ve always wanted. Every summer night can be heavy with friends and family enjoying life and being together. And when the winter is at its worst, there will be people readily available to share quilts and complain about the bleakness and watch bad movies with. Have you ever heard that Joni Mitchell song Sisotowbell Lane? That’s how I imagine it.

C&C: Exactly! Just like in Sisotowbell Lane. All the good neighbors and sense of community without the noise and suffocation of urban life. You grew up in the country, yes? And our grandfathers were both tobacco farmers. Tell me about your grandparents.

JL: Yes. I lived on a tobacco farm, which was pretty magical. I had a lot of freedom and space to grow and adventure. My grandparents were very hard workers. I think it comes from growing up during the Great Depression. You just had to work hard. There was no other alternative.

My grandmother was sort of stern. She kept me and my uncle in line. She’s a worrier and sensible and very strong. My grandfather was a dreamer. He was the one who wanted to spend all their savings on traveling. He was very funny and personable – everyone liked him. He passed away when I was a sophomore in high school.

Here’s a story I want to tell about my grandfather. They settled for a good amount of time in California – in San Diego county -while their daughters were growing up. And then it was time to move back to Kentucky. They both had parents that were getting older and needed them and my grandfather had the idea to be a farmer. He wanted to build his own house (and he was good with this sort of thing, it wasn’t crazy for him to want to build a house) on a big chunk of land and farm it and live there forever. And one day the family was at the beach. My grandpa went out and drew his dream house in the sand. He drew out the entire house plan right there. And that’s what he later built. That’s the sort of person he was. He was the type of person to draw his house plan in the sand. And even though the house wasn’t what my grandmother had pictured, she had no choice but to say yes because of the look in his eyes as he showed her this plan for them. That’s who they were. He dreamed and she planned and together it made a good life.

C&C: Tell me about Frances Stein.

JL: It’s a movie! In my town, we have a local horror movie production company called Big Biting Pig and Frances Stein will be their 9th full length movie. It’s the story of a mad scientist, Frances Stein. I can’t give much away, but there is talk of reanimating human bodies and sucking the memories out of people’s heads – mad scientist stuff! And while I said they do horror movies, I’d call this one something more along the lines of a thriller.

My character is Jayne Ellis. She’s a brilliant young scientist who will do anything to get what she wants – and that thing usually involves some heavy flirting, sex, and manipulation. She is not a role model. Bad things happen to her. And I have to say, the bad things have been my favorite part of filming. There is a good chunk of time when I am tied up in a basement. I’m trapped in a chair – like, for real. Tied down, wrists zip tied, the whole shebang. And the set is built in this big garage – what used to be a bike shop – and there was no air conditioning and it was about a zillion degrees and I was physically miserable a lot of the time. But it was FUN! It is the closest I feel like I will ever get to being a Final Girl. Being terrified on film has been the best experience. I’m in there sweating like a whore in church and screaming through duct tape and it’s like a horror fan’s dream come true! I feel like Sally Hardesty crossed with Jess Bradford. I love the physical parts, the terror.


C&C: I know you’re planning for Halloween. What’s on the schedule so far? Is it your family’s Big Holiday of the year?

YAY HALLOWEEN! I do a big production for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well, but Halloween is the most fun. We decorate the inside of the house and the outside. Jonathan wants to do a full-fledged haunted house in there, but I keep telling him that’s not entirely realistic. Maybe one day.

Jonathan is very up in the air right now. He changes his mind on costumes every other day, so I have to wait until much closer to the date before doing anything for him. Last year he was a zombie. That was easy and I mostly just had to learn how to make convincing zombie makeup, I was pretty proud of it – that’s just toilet paper and a facial mask (and face paint, of course). The year before he was Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb, which was a lot of fun to make. And lots of people recognized him. He loved that.

Sean is the first partner I’ve had that will dress up with me, so that’s thrilling. Last year we did Ash and Mia from The Evil Dead and the remake -respectively. I was really proud of that idea. Everyone knew who he was, I think people didn’t get mine. This year we’ve settled on an Inglourious Basterds theme. He’s going to be Lt Aldo Raines and I’m going to be Shosanna. I get to buy a blonde wig and Sean has promised to shave his moustache accordingly. I haven’t gotten a wig in forever. I’m excited about that.

C&C: Do you believe in ghosts?

JL: Yeah, I do. And I could go on for hours. Firstly because I’ve got it in my head now that it’s scientific. Because energy can’t just disappear, it has to go somewhere. So when you die what happens to the energy of you? I don’t know, but something. So I believe honestly in these ghosts that are like impressions. Like, if you see a ghost of a woman walking from one room to the next over and over like on a loop. That’s not a conscious being, but it’s an impression left by a person’s energy, doing what that person always did. That’s what I most honestly believe.

But then there is the time I saw a ghost. It was at a friend’s slumber party. We were playing hide and seek in the dark – about five of use – and I won’t bore you with the layout of the house and all that, but the gist is this big green glowing light came from one room and moved at varying speeds from one girl to the next. It was about beach ball sized. And the pattern it moved in was very random. Sharp angles and curved lines. No one believed us, of course, but every one of us saw the same thing.

Ghost stories are the horror movies that actually scare me. I don’t know why, but they do. They scare the crap out of me. I love it. And I love the cheesy ghost hunting shows and all of that. Because it’s just more fun. I don’t know what goes on after you die. But whatever it is, I hope it’s fun. So yeah, ghosts.

C&C: When you were little, did you want to be anything when you grew up?

JL: Yeah, the first thing I remember really wanting to be was a dog walker. I’ve always loved dogs and it seemed like the best possible idea. My mom squashed that dream pretty quickly, explaining I wouldn’t make any money. But when I got older – probably around 8th grade – I thought about it some more and did a little math and realized it isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In about 5th grade I decided I was going to be a writer and in 6th grade I wrote my first “book” in the vein of the RL Stein Fear Street books I was reading at the time. I don’t still have it but I remember the basic idea was about a girl with a split personality. And of course the other personality had Carrie-like powers of the mind. And the main character was named Hope. And I titled it Hopes Gone. Which is the best title I’ve ever come up with.

C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child?

JL: Probably my Princess of Power toys – aka She-Ra. I was a different character from She-Ra for 3 straight years on Halloween. For my birthday one year my mom bought me She-Ra’s horse, Swift Wind. And that very night I left it out in the family room and our dog ate it. Just ate it completely. And of course those kinds of things re expensive, so there was no replacing it. It was my biggest regret in life for a long time. I relived that in my head quite a bit.

C&C: I remember Swift Wind, I was a drooling fan of She-Ra and the toys, too. Especially the horses and their awesome shininess and removable saddle/wing accessories. How long has it been since you’ve seen the She-Ra cartoon? What was your favorite cartoon?

JL: I can’t remember the last time I watched She-Ra. Although maybe that isn’t true. Maybe a year ago I saw that they had a lot of the episodes on Youtube and I watched one then. I should do that again. I remember watching Smurfs and Scooby Doo and Fraggle Rock. Those were all good. I didn’t like the old Looney Tunes stuff. I always thought that was boring. Just different ways to kill a toon.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

JL: A scrap bit of paper that says: thick crust, red onion, green peppers, garlic.

C&C: What was the first book you read that made a huge blazing imprint on you?

Okay, when I was in the first grade there was this book called The Golden Name Day by Jennie D. Lindquist. It was in our school library and all my friends had checked it out and read it. It was a chapter book. And reading it was almost a status thing, I think because it was so long and we were so young. I was a really bad reader then. My mom read me books and I loved stories, but I personally couldn’t read very well. Words didn’t work for me then. So I was very apprehensive about this, because according to all the other girls, they read this big book themselves. Now, I wonder if that’s true. But it doesn’t matter because at the time I believed it. And I was very susceptible to peer pressure I guess, so I checked the book out. And I didn’t read it all myself. I read some of it and my mom would read me some of it at night before bed. But I got through it and I thought it was wonderful. It was just fantastic.

About seven or eight years ago I thought about that book and decided it’d be nice to have. So I searched the internet and found out the book is no longer in print and getting a copy meant spending a minimum of about fifty dollars. It was a collectible. But when I get an idea to have something or do something I can get a little obsessive. So I kept looking and finally I found an old library copy online for maybe fifteen dollars and I bought it immediately. I read it over again and it was still pretty magical. If you can find it, I recommend it.