Monthly Archives: August 2015

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.