Tag Archives: interviews

Sarah Read

image

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.

 

 

 

 

image

Usman Tanveer Malik

image

 

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.

 

image

Usman Malik

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

 

Benjamin Whitmer

image

Curiouser & Curiouser: We’re from the same hometown, which makes me think we’re already best friends, which makes you my newest Internet crush – strange, considering I usually stick to crushes named Craig. What’re the chances of us getting married?

Benjamin Whitmer: Well, back ‘atcha. Though I would say the odds are low on marriage, but it’s certainly not personal. I have done marriage, and have come to think of it the way I think of a new Wally Lamb book. Meaning, I’m very happy that it makes so many other people happy, but I can’t figure out any of the characters, and if you come too near me with it I’ll run away and hide under a bucket.

But I love that we’re from that same town. It’s one of those places that you never expect to meet anybody from. I actually lived in town, Jackson, for the first year or two of my life, and then my mother and I moved with some other folks onto a farm in the hills. On top of a hill actually, which I remember distinctly, because there were a lot of nights we had to park our broke-down car at the bottom and walk the dirt driveway up it. We had forty acres with a barn, a cabin, and a little white house down in a gully. My mother and I lived in all three at one point or another. I liked the little white house the best, I think, because it had a black snake in the walls that would eat the mice and you could hear it moving around.

There was no electricity and no running water, but we had lots of freedom and books. And my mother, bless her soul, kept me out of school until third grade. That was very important to my development, being kept out of school. It’s the one thing I wish I could give my children. I think the kids of this country would be better off with a lot less school.

C&C: I agree with you about school. There’s a lot of paperwork going on, but not exactly a lot of learning… How do you think starting late in school, and being a little wild as a young one, set you up for parenting? I mean, a lot of parents with any kind colorful pasts are just as likely to go full-on opposite “I will not let my children repeat my mistakes, they shall succeed,” as they are “It’s just school. They get more state and federal money if you fill in the right circles, just join the circus or something, there’s a lot of life out there.” This question is kind of all over the place. But, kids. And dreaming and the circus and success…

B: I’m a little of both, I guess. I don’t care about grades, and I’m of the opinion school has a lot more to do with teaching them how to be productive members of society – meaning, preparing them for a lifetime of keeping their ass in a seat and doing stupid, repetitive work – than it has to do with education. And I’m always furious about the amount of useless busywork they come home with. And all the nonsense testing. There’s no way I’d have survived if I had to do it in this day and age, and I’m not real good at hiding my opinion from them.

But at the same time, I dropped out of high school, and it made life a lot harder. So they know that too. My philosophy on it is, yeah, most of it may be junk, but it can make your life a lot easier if you can put up with it. I’m probably not gonna win any father-of-the-year awards with that attitude, but I have trouble coming up with another. To the colorful past thing, mainly it’s just important for me that they know there are no mistakes they can make that I haven’t already made. Whatever they’re struggling with, I’ve probably screwed it up royally in my life. That’s the one parenting lesson that I hope really sticks with them. Not as an excuse for them to do every dumbass thing I did, but so they can talk to me about anything. (Sorry to be corny.)

C&C: What are your plans for Halloween?

B: I think my kids are with their mother this Halloween, so probably not much. I’m pretty fucking lame on that holiday, to be honest. There’s usually an invitation to some party that I ignore because I’m too lazy to figure out a costume. When I have the kids, I always have big plans for costumes, but we never get ‘em done, because at the end of the day the kids want to be in something storebought. Which I don’t blame them for. Besides which, I’m not the most crafty individual on earth. I’ve been boycotting Hobby Lobby long before it was cool. My entire life, in fact.

There’s a zombie walk here in Denver and last year I wanted to buy gas masks and go as those creepy kids from “The Empty Child” episode of Doctor Who. But I think the kids realized I really just wanted an excuse to buy us all gas masks, so they nixed it. And then I thought it would be fun to dress my son up as Maxwell Silverhammer and I could go as the judge with my brains hanging out. Also nixed, for a cool ninja costume. And then one year I thought it would be cool for all of us to go as Black Bloc anarchists, and I even told them they could smash all the Starbucks’ windows they wanted – not for any political reasons, just that Moby Dick is my favorite book – but they started complaining about getting arrested and etc.

C&C: Can you make a bump key, or could you at any point, and realistically is that even a useful skill anymore considering the way security systems and locks are set up, now?

B: Oh, hell no. When I was a kid I thought I was pretty good at breaking and entering, but it was more just the side window or the unlocked garage door. It was just that I lived in a small town in southern Ohio where there was a private university. It was a target rich environment. Lots of folks with lots of good alcohol and drugs, and, as a townie, I didn’t have any good alcohol or drugs. So I felt within my rights to liberate some of theirs. It was the kind of stupid teenage shit which’d probably get you shot or put in jail for life these days.

Now I kind of want to learn how to file down a bump key, though. You may have solved my Halloween plans.

C&C: Who was the first person you ever showed a story you’d written?

B: I think it was a young lady named Laurie. I was stone in love with her. She was one of the coolest people I’d ever met, and she was always blowing me away when she talked about books. It was a small town and I wasn’t much of a fighter, or smart in school, or any kind of good looking, so I figured I’d better pick up something artistic to impress young women. And since I couldn’t draw and had no musical ability, I chose writing. Everybody’s impressed with writers, right? And it’s easy – it’s just words, after all.

Jesus, did I miscalculate that one. From every single angle.

I still count Laurie as one of my best friends, though. And she seemed to like the story well enough. Enough that I wrote another. And another. And then decided, fuck it, I’ll do this for life, whether or not it ever impresses women. So I’m happy with the results.

C&C:Did you celebrate Christmas as a kid?

B: Absolutely. I’m a sucker for Christmas. When I was a kid we never had any money, so it was never about gifts, but the adults always did these amazing things. I remember one year we came down and the entire Christmas tree was lit up with candles, each of which they’d placed into a bird’s nest and clothespinned to a branch. It was beautiful. Other times I remember going out in a real sleigh, with bells and everything, singing Christmas carols on our way to cut down our own tree.

I’m still goofy for it with my kids. We have a little more money, so there are more gifts, probably, but I try to keep everything aimed at the corny stuff. They make it easy by being great kids.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets right now? Or another way people like to approach this one if I catch them in their pajamas is to list their “every day carry.”

B: Well, besides keys, I have my Phat Bob folding knife. It’s the best knife I’ve ever had. It’s tough and big, and easy to open one-handed. You can use it to pop Mexican cokes, peel an apple or baton kindling. I’ll be heartbroken when it breaks, because I think they’re discontinued. I also have a brass Zippo. I quit smoking cigarettes, but I keep it because, y’know, fire. And my stupid cellphone. Which, for my purposes, is only really an e-reader. (Right now loaded up with PERFIDIA.) And my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pizza Time wallet that my son gave me for father’s day. And if I’m carrying, there will also be a 3” limited edition Ruger .357 revolver and an extra speedloader of ammunition. I don’t carry so much anymore, though.

C&C: If I went to the vehicle you’re driving and turned on the radio, what would come out? What do you listen to when driving?

B: I usually listen to audio books. Any way that I can sneak a little extra book time, I’ll take. I’m pretty boring on that front. I try to keep the radio off for the same reason I don’t have cable and never hooked an antenna up to my television. I’m inundated with enough shit from the internet, I don’t need any more. My brain functions better when I know exactly what’s going into it, and I don’t end up being surprised by any unforeseen celebrity news.

C&C: Can you swim?

B: Nope. I could probably keep from drowning for twenty minutes. Maybe. And sometimes I can move in the direction I’m trying to for a few feet, but that’s about it. Luckily I live in Colorado, where it’s not exactly a necessary skill.

C&C: Do you have any irrational fears or phobias? Like not logical “I think I have bad breath” or “I heard a chainsaw, there’s probably a chainsaw out there” fears, but more like, well, cockatoos can steal your soul and Jack-in-the-boxes are evil. Those last two things are true, by the way. Anything get to you like that?

B: Chickens! I loathe and fear chickens. We had them growing up and they were the only thing we killed that bothered me. The way they keep flopping around headless, evil fuckers. Pigs don’t do that. You stun a pig by shooting it in the head and then cut its throat, and it doesn’t jump up and start trying to chase you. That’s chicken behavior. Anything that can do that is pure malevolence. And they’re disgusting. Bonedeep stupid, filthy animals. I have recurring nightmares about being caged in with them.

I eat chicken out of spite. I hate-eat the motherfuckers.

image

Order ‘Cry Father’
www.benjaminwhitmer.com

Heather Foster

image

Curiouser & Curiouser: Is your maiden name Hayes? My maiden name is Hayes. Are we related?

Heather: Yes, my maiden name IS Hayes. I’d say we’re sisters, since I’ve always wanted one and even tried to buy one with my allowance once, but you’re so wonderfully tiny, I doubt it’s possible. Cousins maybe? Totally believable. I have like eleven thousand cousins. I come from southern farmers on both sides. Kids = free labor.

C&C: You said somewhere that ideally you’d have six husbands. PLEASE tell me who all your husbands would be and why.

H: Oh Lord. I KNEW you’d ask this. Haha. Ok here goes:

First, I’d keep my current husband, David Foster, because he is awesome to me and awesome to the three beautiful badass kids we made together. There is no shame between us, and no end to our devotion. Plus, he would let me have the other five husbands, which immediately qualifies him for sainthood. Look it up.

Second, William Gay. Listen, I realize he’s dead, but that was recent and I think he’d be into the fact that I rate his corpse/ghost higher on my list than most live men. It’s his prose, okay? It’s just. When I read I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, I feel possessed. And I’ve absolutely no desire to call Father Merrin.

Third, Richard Thomas. You knew this was coming! He is going to kill me for this. He and I went to grad school together in Kentucky, and we’ve remained good friends ever since. There are a lot of great things about Richard, but I’d marry him mostly because he is super, SUPER goodlooking. It’s pretty stupid, really, for one person to be so tall and so attractive and have so much wavy salt and peppery hair. Plus we’ve had a lot of really good conversations about literature, which is a turn on for me in any potential future Mr. Heather Foster. So yeah. Him.

Fourth, Patrick Dempsey, circa 2007. But ONLY if he stayed in character as Derek Shepherd the whole time. I know I said I’m not interested in persona. I totally LIED. Dempsey is so hot as Shepherd that I would let him do brain surgery on me even though he is definitely not a real doctor. I’d probably insist that the sex happen beforehand though, just in case I either died or came out of surgery with a permanent drooling problem or a conscience or something.

Fifth, Simon Baker, in suspenders or a vest. It’s a fetish. Get past it. Also, he’s one of the only blondes I’ve ever found attractive.

Sixth, Dwight Yoakam, of course. He’s incredibly smart and interesting (I wonder what kind of soap he uses! Ahhh!). He’s a terrific songwriter. His VOICE is just…well, it’s heaven. There is that lonesome catch in the back of his throat that just slays me every time. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live (once from the front row at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas–amazing!) and he’s got charisma for days. I’ve seen how he handles his guitar. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how things with him would go. Plus, he looks really really good in tight britches.

C&C: Tell me how you feel about Elvis.

H: I would dig him up and make him my seventh husband. The pelvis, the smooth voice, black velvet, all that. I used to live in Memphis, in fact, and my favorite cousin met her husband while they were both working at Graceland, which I’ve visited many times.

So, Elvis. I find him irresistible, especially offstage. I sometimes get fascinated with people who happen to be famous (Dwight Yoakam, Marilyn Monroe, many writers, a few of my would-be husbands and concubines), but it isn’t that glamorous public persona which interests me. In fact, I detest celebrities who seem to have nothing more to offer.

I grew up with parents who really shared very little of themselves with me. My mother, for example, gave up almost all of her own time and interests in order to dedicate herself to her children. She wanted to do that, and she was (and still is) a terrific mother. However, I don’t remember knowing anything about her as an individual person (separate from her role as wife and mother) until I was an adult. And my father was even more mysterious. I thought all people were basically the same, I guess. When I began to really know people deeply, probably when I was in my late teens, I became obsessed with the little strange details that make people different. I still have a bizarre, almost starving hunger to KNOW people. I like to know everything I can about someone who interests me–what books could he read over and over? What’s on her iPod? What did he eat on the best day of his life? What kind of shampoo does she use? I want to know all the things. I realize that makes me sound very much like a stalker and/or serial killer. Maybe it will come to that one day. Whatever.

C&C: I understand exactly what you mean about wanting to KNOW people – all the little things. That’s the entire pretense for this interview series. I smiled when I read your iPod question, because in another interview I asked an author what they currently listened to in the car.
Do you think people are inherently suspicious of genuine, no-ulterior-motive curiosity? As a general defense mechanism or childhood training, or something?

H: YES. Or at least I’m afraid that they are. I worked my way through grad school as a night manager at a grocery store. I dealt with a lot of customers, people of all sorts. I mostly dealt with accounting stuff or problems at the service desk, but occasionally, if we were really busy or a cashier needed a potty break, I got to work the checkstand. I loved that part of the job. I loved seeing all the stuff people bought and imagining the kind of lives they led. Occasionally, I would comment or ask about something they were buying and most often, that seemed to offend them. They seemed to feel like I had invaded their privacy, like I was supposed to be moving things with my hands, scanning things without noticing what they were. That was frustrating, but then there were those customers who let me in without me even needing to ask–once, a lady came to my register carrying three rotisserie chickens. She set them down and burst into tears, barely able to catch her breath, stammering about how her sister just died and she didn’t know what else to do besides buy some chickens. I’ll never forget that.

It’s kind of strange that people are suspicious of nosiness, since so much of our culture now is narcissistic–Facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. We’re constantly talking about ourselves, often to people whom we’ve never even met in person.
P.S. Today, I listened to Lana Del Rey on my way to work. “Ride” over and over and over.

C&C: Tell me about Halloween.

H: Halloween is tied for Christmas as my favorite holiday. When I was a kid, my mom loaded up as many kids as she could fit in our van and took us to the best neighborhoods to go trick-or-treating. We always ended up with obscene amounts of candy. We lived on an island in Florida, and there were a lot of families with children there, so most people participated in Halloween stuff. Now, I live in a tiny rural town in Tennessee. We don’t usually get a SINGLE trick-or-treater. It’s devastating. So, we deck the house out in all kinds of wonderfully gory decorations at the beginning of October. I make scary snacks for the kids. Hubby #1 and I watch horror films together every night of the month. On Halloween night, I dress the kids up (hubby and I get dressed up, too) and drive them 3 towns over to do some proper candy fetching. Then I steal my favorites from their stash the next day. No shame.

C&C: Do you wear a watch? Why or why not?

H: This answer is gonna be boring. I don’t wear a watch because I have gigantic man sized wrists. I’ve longed for a women’s leather-strap watch all my life, though. I secretly jealous punch women in the face in my head when I see them wearing watches like that.

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

H: The answer to this is always the same: absolutely nothing. I can’t stand the feeling of having stuff in my pockets. My purse is another story. It’s completely full of crap. There’s the usual–wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses. But I’ve also got hand sanitizer, granola bars, birth control pills, Hot Wheels, a pacifier, a strip club discount card, a dry erase marker, white out, ear buds, and about a thousand receipts in there.

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

H: Definitely my Barbies. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a feminist who played with Barbies. I STILL play with Barbies. My sons join me now.

I remember being 7 or 8 years old, inventing very complicated scenarios for my Barbies to act out, inspired by the soap operas my mom sometimes let play when she worked in the kitchen: “Victor, I’m pregnant!” or “I saw you at the mall with Trinity. Do you love her?” I also posed them in life scenes or cheerleading pyramids and wasted entire rolls of film shooting them with my parents’ slidefront Olympus.

C&C: How many hours are you averaging, sleep-wise, per night right now?

H: During the week, 6 if I’m lucky, 3 or 4 if I’m not. The weekends are better. But the baby’s no longer to blame. She’s sleeping 10 hours a night now. It’s the students, more specifically, the essays I’m constantly grading. I’m pretty much mainlining coffee these days. Red Diamond Hazelnut. Cream. No Sugar.

C&C: Do you like amphibians? I’ve found people are very “YES! A TOAD!” Or “Get that slimy thing away from me,” not much in between. In general are you fascinated by any particular animal/bug/creature? Why?

I like frogs as long as they stay away from me. If I get up to my door, ready to go into my house, and there’s a frog on the screen, it’s game over. Because I just know it will jump on me. I always make my husband or one of my kids catch it and move it out of my way. My brother used to put frogs down the back of my swimsuit in front of his cute friends so I’m maybe a little scarred by that. Toads are kind of charming, and we have several living in our flowerbeds. Lizards can kiss my ass. There’s something about them that’s just not right. They’ll lie there still forever and suddenly just make a break for it and you NEVER KNOW WHICH WAY THEY’LL GO, which I think is the worst part.
I love cats. The bitchier, the better. We have three: Sylvia, Keats, and Hugo. Sylvia’s bitchiness is EPIC. She destroys things that belong to me and then waits for me to find them and yell, so she can go coo in my husband’s ear and advance her plan to give me a stroke so he will belong to her alone. She’s taking me out first, then the kids. I’m certain of it.

image

www.heatherfoster.org

David James Keaton

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

 You picked a very good pocket day! Actually sort of sad pocket day. I have the broken strap of my favorite watch. Apparently my sweat is like acid because this thing was made for deep-sea divers and the rubber cracked in half after a year. I loved this watch. It was larger than most watches. This is the watch where someone the other day said, “What a big watch. Are you overcompensating?” Which led to me quizzing this person about why he thought a watch was for wearing on a penis. Seriously though. My watch was so big, you could switch one word and all the classic ‘big dick’ jokes would still make sense. My watch is so big I use it for an umbrella, etc. Some even make MORE sense. Examples. My watch is so big it arrives five minutes before I do. See what I’m saying? Much better as a watch joke. My watch is so big it won’t return Spielberg’s phone calls. Right?! There are watch phone combos now. It’s the future! My watch is so big it has its own dick. I mean, watch. Get it? All the extra watch features are like little watches in the watch? No? Okay, I’m reaching a little bit on that one. Here we go. My watch is so big movie popcorn is labeled “Large,” “Extra Large,” and “My Dick Watch!” I don’t know what I’m saying at this point. Also in my pocket, about 75 cents. I like barbecue baked chips. They’re like gold at work.

C&C: What was your favorite/most fun/most ambitious Halloween costume?  

I’m much more ambitious with pumpkin carving than with costumes. Throughout high school I would usually just tuck a Hawaiian shirt into my jeans, carry around a squirt gun and be like, “I’m Magnum P.I. Leave me alone.” It was pathetic. I had a fairly decent attempt at Donnie Darko costume though, back when the movie was new. Mostly because it was easy. I just made a skeleton hoodie, wrote the date for the end of the world on my arm, and carried around a stuffed one-eyed bunny. Actually that was a disaster. No one knew who the fuck I was.

(Batman 3D Pumpkin glasses)

C&C: Tell me three favorite movie quotes.

For some reason, I often think of the line in the terrible Deep Rising where they’re on the elevator between action scenes and the one guy says, “What is that?” “Peanut.” Then he drops it in the water and is sad. To this day this cracks me UP.

 I mutter “Time…to die” a lot from Blade Runner, usually after something fun has just ended. It’s like mild Tourette’s. Doesn’t add to the conversation, but I can’t help repeating it.

 It might be more of a movie concept than a movie quote, but every time there is a pairing of like-minded people or two similar objects next to each other, I’ll announce that it is “The Quickening!” This might have been funny once, but that was in 1987 when Highlander hit video. That may never stop either.

C&C: Do children frighten you? Because they’re tiny weird little people?

The only children that have ever frightened me when I wasn’t a child myself were the ones described in the book ‘Salem’s Lot (the ones on the bus and the one he dragged out into the sun). And the ones in the movie The Brood. What’s weird unusual is The Brood is successful at scaring you with creepy children NOT because they’re weird beaked monster children that are physical manifestations of their mother’s rage (we’re in David Cronenbergland here of course). They’re scary because they’re often filmed standing casually in their bright orange and yellow snowmobile suits in broad daylight milling around with other kids on the playground and you know what’s under the hoods but the other kids don’t. Freaky. And they don’t sing or dance about or ask us to “play with them forever” (yes, that was effective in the Shining, but oh such a cliché now).

 
C&C: How old were you the first time you had stitches, and what were the circumstances? I love injury stories…

 Oh, man. You hit the jackpot on this one. You know the injury contest in Jaws? I do that all the time, even though mine are mostly like Hooper’s gag story, “Ellen Moffit. She broke my heart!” I think the first time I got stitches was sports related (which I was terrible at but kept playing because my older brother was quite good).

One of the only times they let me on the field in football, I broke a finger by punching a guy in the helmet during the last seconds of the fourth quarter, a part of the game I referred to as the“kickoff” since it was the only time I was allowed anywhere near the game. That wasn’t very smart, but that kid had stepped on my hand when I was crawling on the ground desperately trying to get involved in a tackle after the fact that was nowhere near me. The things you do with your dad in the bleachers! I’d taken my helmet off and demanded that he do the same. He laughed and said, “No way!” so I punched him anyway and cracked the top knuckle on my ring finger on his metal chin-strap snap. Now I’ve got a bulbous, peanut-looking digit and had two stitches I think? Maybe three. Actually, earlier than that, I wrapped my car around a telephone pole and put my left hand a right foot into the dashboard, right through the plastic grille covering the vent. I milked that injury for all it was worth. It happened on the way to school, in my little red, two-seater Fiaro, called a “poor-man’s Corvette” by a snarky classmate and which, on impact, reveals that it’s probably fashioned out of Legos. All the buses, even the short ones, filed by my stupid car on their way in since it was a very small town and the site of my wreck was the last major road to our high school. Later I heard that after homeroom, I was officially “dead.” It was amazing. My girlfriend at the time had to leave her science class crying when she heard the news. Can you imagine the attention I got from her after that?! I’ve never been so happy about someone else’s misery in my life. I acted like I just got back from storming the beach at Normandy, walking around with my bandages, pointing at things for no reason. I enjoyed the attention…until these two other kids got hit by a goddamn train three days later. One of them broke his leg when the train dragged their car about a hundred yards down the tracks, and when he came back to school on his crutches (he was only out for one day!) with a fucking piece of his car still stuck in his elbow, so no one gave a shit about my hand anymore.
Wait! Here’s a good one. I was sitting on the edge of one of those aboveground pools once when I was 6 or 7, and I fell backwards and my palm slapped this row of exposed screws where it wasn’t quite finished being put together, and they punched three big holes in my hand right down to the bones. They had trouble with the stitches on that one because they were puncture wounds and not cuts. I remember staring at the holes waiting for them to bleed.

Oh, here’s a real good one where I look like a genius! I had this golf ball, and I was standing on our porch with a neighbor girl and whipping it at the ground over and over to see how many times I could get it to rebound off the roof and floor of the porch (you can see where this is going) and I threw it as hard as I could and Smack! Smack! Twice right in the fucking mouth. Slow-motion replay shows the golf ball hit the roof, hit my mouth, hit the ground, hit me in the mouth again, putting my top two teeth through my bottom lip, then me dropping to the ground very confused. And it took forever for my mouth to heal. I was proudly displaying this huge, greasy sausage lip with two oozing white holes in it and a big stitch criss-crossed in it. It looked like I got bit trying to kiss a snake. That was last Thursday. Just kidding. I think I was 9. Shit, I can think of about fifty more, but the absolute earliest earliest might be the one time when I was real little I was running with a big stick over these big, broken slabs of highway, and I tripped and jammed the stick through the center of my hand. Luckily it popped into that fan of skinny bones and didn’t pop out the top, but it left another round puncture wound that took forever to close up. I tried to save those stitches when they took them out, and did for awhile, but then I ran to show them to somebody and the paper towel I was holding them in flipped up in the breeze and they were lost in the carpet forever.

C&C: Did you make any progress with the wedding ring search? You do know that if you break your finger while wearing a titanium carbide ring, they have to cut off your finger, get the ring off, then sew your finger back on, right?

Nasty! I don’t know why, but that makes me want to wear rings on all my fingers and toes at all times. Actually I watched about a dozen videos of various people hammering rings into oblivion to finally come to the conclusion that I will probably not face a situation where someone sledgehammers my ring finger. Unless I get caught cheating at poker. Which I would totally do. In fact, when I was playing Little League baseball, I would get bored at the end of the bench and think up all sorts of schemes to cheat the other team. My dad was the coach, so he knew better than to put me in the game. So instead I would write down the other teams’ signals, diagram ways to hide the ball to tag people out Bad News Bears style. He would usually glance at whatever Rube Goldberg nonsense I’d jotted down and then make a paper airplane out of it. Then he’d ask if I could put all the equipment in the van. He said if I did this enough I would finally get a cap that matched the rest of the team (they ran out).
 
 
C&C: I think your watch story is bullshit, it breaking all on its own like that. Did you test the watch for durability?
If someone isn’t around me on a daily basis and hasn’t experienced the bizarre sight of watches constantly exploding off my arms, I can understand your skepticism. So I have included a photo of my broken watch where you can clearly see my sweat devoured the band like molecular acid. Actually this watch lasted longer than my last watch. That’s a long time for a watch, right? Aren’t they supposed to have the same lifespan as your shoes? Way less than a titanium carbide finger-munching Ring of Doom?
 
 
 
 
C&C: Do you sing or dance in front of people?
 
I think white people look silly dancing unless they’re dance-punching out their frustrations alone in a factory. I have been known to sing Prince songs after a couple Coca-Colas. “Seven,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Purple Rain” bring down the house. I like singing Meat Loaf songs, too. I plan on signing “Bat Out Of Hell” in its entirety, sans teleprompter, at a reception in the near future.
 
 
C&C: Have you seen Dead and Breakfast? What did you think?
I did. It was okay for a grubby little zombie import. No Shaun of the Dead or anything. I totally scooped them though and thought of the “zombie bed & breakfast” idea first, back when I was trying to do it for real. And obviously in their story, there isn’t an attempt to stage a zombie assault for fun. But I was still feeling defensive when the e-book got picked up for print, so I decided to set the record straight and actually referenced that movie in the expanded version of Zee Bee & Bee, as well as calling out a certain song by a local artist that I’m totally convinced ripped me off. The guy who wrote this song dated an ex who was around when I was trying to finance my actual Zombie Bed & Breakfast, so there’s no way that’s a coincidence. Here’s the passage (the talk of the “banker” is a thinly-veiled reference to our publication date being ahead of the plagiarist’s song):

“I helped hand-pick a crew, and by the next fall, we had everything up and running, but oddly enough, two full years after we’d started making enough money to think about our first 4:00 a.m. commercial spot, a low-budget flick popped up in the video stores called Dead and Breakfast that sounded a little too close to home. Everyone panicked a little. But, luckily, it bore no resemblance to our original idea of staging an attack for fun and profit. This movie was just another siege on a house, and it took the situation more seriously, even for a supposed comedy. Their storyline treated everything as if it was actually happening, something even the occasional survivalist couple rarely considered for long. Clever title though, we all had to admit. But if that wasn’t suspicious enough, a jazz/calypso fusion song about zombies ‘partying it up at a bed and breakfast’ was released the same summer we flicked on our ‘vacancy’ sign. The song was called “The Zombie and B,” but, thank Christ, it had two inherent problems that quickly relegated it to our pay-no-mind list. One, it hit the radio a full 48 hours after the story of this story was first transcribed by a banker where we secured our loan. And two, unless you say that title out loud, stressing the second syllable of ‘zombie,’ you don’t get the gag at all. You’d just think it was another stupid love song.”

 
 
C&C: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen a domesticated animal do?
Are turtles domesticated? Because that turtle-having-sex video on YouTube has haunted me ever since. The sounds it was making were utterly human. At first I didn’t believe it. I had to bang a turtle to verify. Turns out that’s how you domesticate ’em.
 
 
 
 
C&C Disclaimer: Do not click the link below if you have a shred of innocence left within:
 

John Everson

 

C&C: What kinds of movies do you like to watch that DON’T have monsters or ghoulies in them?

 I am a huge movie buff, though I have to admit, 90% of my film watching the past few years has been horror-related! That said, I love watching Pixar movies with my son and I love all those ’80s comedies, like Better Off Dead,  Real Genius, and all the John Hughes movies (16 Candles,  Ferris Bueller, etc.) I’ve been a big fan of “auteur” directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen, and I’ll watch anything that Tim Burton does (though admittedly, they usually have ghoulies in them of some kind). I love Sci-Fi movies but it seems like they just don’t make very many any more. There have been a couple smart ones over the past few years though, like Inception and District Nine and the Star Trek reboot. Blade Runner, a Sci-Fi noir film is one of my favorite movies of all time. But I’ve enjoyed some “chick flicks” with my wife too – I’ve seen Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes a bunch of times. One of the last really great films I saw with her was Bridesmaids, both a chick flick and a really smart comedy!
 
 
 C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
 
At the moment, my iPod and my passport because I’m writing this on a plane ride to Canada. Listening to the latest Paul Heaton (former Beautiful South/Housemartins singer) solo CD that I just bought (I love it that I can order CDs from the UK via Amazon!).
 
 
C&C: Do you dress up to take your son trick or treating? Why or why not?
 
I put on a scary full-head monster mask. Anyone who knows me knows that as much as I love Halloween, I hate dressing up… but I figure my son will have a better time if I play along with it all. So I do!
 
 
C&C: How old were you when you wrote your first piece of fiction and enjoyed it and what were the circumstances?
 
I think my first short story was written probably in 4th or 5th grade — I just remember that it was an homage to Isaac Asimov’s galactic empire series, because I was reading all those Foundation / Stars Like Dust / Pebble in the Sky novels at that time. Sadly (or perhaps this is a good thing) I don’t have a copy of that story anymore. It seems a little premature now, but looking back, I’d read dozens of adult SF novels because I know by the time I hit 6th grade I’d inherited about 30 Science Fiction Book Club classic hardcovers from a neighbor … and he gave those to me because I was already reading a lot of it. (I know I had those books by 6th grade because that was the year we moved to a new town – away from that neighbor!)
 
The next piece of fiction I remember writing was for my high school newspaper… in typical high school fashion, it was a vignette about a guy who goes home and commits suicide. Everyone in high school always seems to be writing melodramatic poetry and fiction, and I didn’t escape.
 
 
 C&C: Have you ever punched anyone in the face? Was it Lon?
 
I know I did very early in grade school. But I wasn’t much of a fighter so I have managed to avoid fisticuffs for the most part in my life. I do remember clocking a kid once in about first grade with the barrel of a toy pistol. I’m guessing I got in a lot of trouble for that one, since it’s one of the few things I remember from that age! If you think I should though, I’ll go ahead and punch Lon the next time I see him!
 
 

C&C: Please don’t punch Lon. You should focus your aggression towards unreachable celebrities. If you could punch any celebrity, who would it be and why?

Tom Cruise. Why? Who doesn’t want to punch Tom Cruise?
 
And Tim Burton. I love Tim, but c’mon man, write another great original movie like Beetlejuice again instead of remaking films that don’t need to be remade just so you can cast Johnny Depp again. Will any of us ever recover from Planet of the Apes?
 
 
C&C: What did you do yesterday?

Ha. I filmed surgery. But I don’t mix the dayjob and the horror job, so that’s about all you’re going to get! Suffice it to say that I run a medical education website for surgeons, and as part of that, we go into the OR every month and film procedures for other surgeons to watch.
 
 
C&C: Do you collect anything?

I’m a media collector… Almost every movie I watch at home I’ve actually bought on DVD (I never rent), and I hold on to them. Kind of like so I have evidence of what I’ve seen. So I have two bookcases filled strictly with horror DVDs (never mind the family stuff we also have!) I used to love having a Blockbuster near us that put DVDs on sale for 4 for $20.
 
I also have several thousand CDs; they stacked up pretty high over the course of twenty years of being a music critic for The Star Newspapers(see www.popstops.net for archives). I still insist on having “hard copies” of my songs, even though I listen to them almost exclusively on my iPod. I believe in “real” media: DVDs, CDs, paper books. I have a few hundred of those too.
 
Since I got a house with a basement and a downstairs bar area, I also seem to be stacking up a good collection of bar coasters and pint beer glasses from micro-breweries and brewpubs that I’ve visited across the country on my many business and book convention trips.
 
 
C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child?

Flopsy, my handsewn stuffed dog. My evil mother decided when I was 5 or 6 that I was too old to keep carrying Flopsy around though, so she got rid of it and claimed it was lost. A warning to mothers: kids never forget. Or forgive.

 
C&C: Cats or dogs? Which are better?

Cats rock. They’re independent and F-U-Cool. There’s a reason that cool rockabilly guys are called cats. Frank Sinatra? He was a cat. Cats know what they want and know how to get it. Cats are doing it for themselves. What’s another word for cat? Pussy! Cats got it all.
 
Unfortunately, I’m allergic to cats and dogs (not to mention horses, gerbils, sheep, cows, and anything else with fur), so my preference doesn’t really matter. I raise birds instead (a cockatoo, cockatiel and parakeet currently).

Bob Pastorella

C&C: Halloween has to be your favorite holiday, right? What’s the best Halloween costume you ever wore?

 Everyday is Halloween. Where some people put in a lot of effort to get their mask/costume just right, I get a thrill out of taking off my mask, if only for one night. Let’s see, I’ve been a vampire several times, Frankenstein’s monster when I was in Elementary school, a zombie, a car accident victim, Charlie Brown, Uncle Fester, a rocker, a redneck, a 70’s porn star–which involves wearing a giant fake penis in my jeans–but my favorite has to be The Devil. It’s a lot of work, and the red makeup is messy as Hell, but so, so worth it in the long run.

 I do my whole bald head in red, mount some horns, wear a black or red shirt, and don a cape and pitchfork. The pitchfork is essential to the character. I don’t just dress up, I play the part. Like I said, Halloween is when I take off my mask. It’s not like I hide behind a facade every other day for the rest of the year, but it’s a day where I can have a little fun and make people smile. Pitchfork in hand, I can hike up unsuspecting girl’s skirts. When she turns around to plant a slap across my face, I usually get a big smile and a hug instead. That is expected behavior for The Devil on Halloween. They probably don’t want to get red makeup on their hands either.

 When I see people out and about on Halloween dressed like they dress everyday, I wonder if maybe they just don’t know how to have fun. What’s the point of not dressing up? People need to lighten up a little. Have fun, dress up for Halloween this year. At least take off the mask you wear every other day of the year.

 

 C&C: Can you shoot a gun?

 Not really. I have fired several handguns in my life, and the whole thing scared the shit out of me. No, I do not like guns. I believe they are necessary in this day and age, and I agree that I should know more about handling them. One day I will learn.

 

 C&C: What’s in your pockets?

 Right now, nothing. When I’m at work, pockets are vital to my sanity. I keep so much stuff in my work slacks pockets that I have to buy them a size too large.

 Left front pocket: coins, my business card holder, several folded sheets of blank copy paper to take notes on.

 Left rear pocket: Blood pressure and diabetes medication, receipts, and when I’m wearing my glasses, my special cloth to clean my lenses.

 Right front pocket: Smartphone and car keys. Car keys are important. I cannot just leave them lying around when I’m away from my house. They must be in my right front pocket or I will have a panic attack.

 Right rear pocket: my wallet.

 

 C&C: What did you doodle/draw on your notebooks/desk in junior high and highschool?

 Monsters, though one time I doodled a giant vagina on one of my book-covers and no one ever figured out what it was. But mainly monsters, like Universal Movie monsters, and rock-n-roll emblems, like AC/DC, ZZ Top, KISS. I always drew profile pictures of Frankenstein’s monster and The Wolfman, but once I was a junior in high school I started drawing portraits of the monsters.

 I also used to draw a skull and slowly flesh it out, always surprised at what kind of face I would get at the end. My friends always loved my drawings, said I was talented, and maybe I am. I still draw every once in a while, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as my father. He rules with a number 2 pencil. But where he rarely draws anything from his imagination, that is definitely my domain.

 I find when I draw now, there’s a maturity that comes from my imagination, not from any skill I was taught. Like shading and texture. No one ever taught me that, though I know I read about it. I just started incorporating that into my drawings and it makes me wonder how good I’d be, how complete I’d be, if maybe I would have had proper schooling in art.

 

 C&C: Tell me one really interesting/horrifying car salesman story.

 There are so many. The craziest one is when I kicked a customer out of the dealership twice in one day for being a jerk, yet he came back a third time and bought two cars from me on the same day.

 The one that sticks in my mind the most is when I first started in the car business working at a Ford dealership. I took a customer out on a test drive in a new 1995 Mustang GT. Once I let the customer take over the wheel, he drove on the highway getting really close to 100 mph. I’m not a big fan of driving fast, so it definitely does not impress me at all. I told him several times that he needed to slow down, and he just laughed at me. After pulling up on the parking brake to reduce our speed, I managed to get him to pull over so I could drive back. This guy spent the entire ride back to the dealership ranting how he was going to have my job. He wanted to talk to the owner, since they were ‘good friends’. I gave him my business card when we got back to my office and took his number down. A few minutes later the owner came back from lunch and I told him what happened, sparing no details. He instructed me to call the guy and have him meet at the dealership at 1:00pm the next day.

 When 1:00pm rolled around, the Speed Demon showed up. I went upstairs and told the owner he was on the showroom floor. When we were walking down the stairs, the owner said I was not to ever do what he was about to do to this customer.

 Downstairs, he walked over to the customer and they shook hands. Before he could even say a word, the owner proceeded to chew him a new ass in front of everyone on the showroom floor. The owner told the guy that if he ever came back into his dealership again, that he would personally kick his ass. The guy just backed away and headed out the door. It was awesome. Guess it’s good to be the King.

C&C: What’s the oddest thing anyone has said to you about your face being on a billboard?

 That the glare of the sun shining on my bald head blinded them on the highway. Since I sold cars, I felt a little vindicated in asking them to buy, or at least sending me a referral.

C&C: How old were you when you wrote your first story? What was it about?

 I was probably about thirteen years old. Right upon finishing The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, I proceeded to write a story about some astronauts who crash land on a planet, only to discover is was really Earth, but they didn’t know it was Earth. I’m pretty sure I let my Dad read it, because I remember him telling that it was good, but not too original. I must say that my favorite thing in the world at that time was The Planet of The Apes and Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles so even though he was right about the not-too-original concept, I felt slighted because I didn’t care if it was original or not, it was my story. Even then I knew all the stories have already been written, it’s just up to us to make them our own.

 

C&C: Do you collect anything? How do you feel about collections/collectors in general?

 I’d really like to say I collect anything other than dust, but it wouldn’t be true. Collectors have this discipline I lack, and envy. To stick with something for so long that the whole is as great as the individual parts is an awesome accomplishment.

 

 C&C: What did you want to be when you were little? Why?

 A make-up artist. At least that’s what I called it back then, though today it’s called Special Effects Make-Up and Design. Obsessed with monsters, and monster movies, I wanted to create what I was seeing on film. This all incorporates to the Halloween thing I have. My zombie costume was quite easy, using liquid latex and fake blood to get the effect I desired. My father helped me become Frankenstein’s monster one year with padded foam and greasepaint, so much fun, but having a ring of foam around the top of your head for about four hours will give a splitting headache.

 

 C&C: Do you have any bizarre phobias? If not, what’s the thing you fear most?

 Other than a fear of heights, I have a fear of hair. Loose hair. Like finding hair in your food kind of hair. I found a long, black hair in my scrambled eggs one morning when I was young and it made me sick to my stomach. Still like scrambled eggs though. But if I see a loose hair, on a table, or a counter, or on my clothes, it makes me ill. I’m making myself ill just thinking about it.