Today, it is my pleasure and privilege to be joined by Stuart R. West. Now Stuart is a very different kind of horror author - in fact sometimes he doesn't do horror at all! Frequently, when he does, there is a lavish helping of humour on the side, so I thought it was about time I asked him how he achieves this, and about his cross-genre experiences.
CC: I found your latest novella – Demon with a Comb-Over – a brilliant read.
Blending horror with humour is a really difficult act to pull off, yet you do it so effectively in this story. Come on, spill, what’s your secret?
SRW: Hey, Catherine, thanks for having me here! No secrets here (as anyone who reads my blog can attest to). Demon with a Comb-Over didn’t start as a humorous book to be honest. Originally, I’d planned it to be straight-up horror. But once I got into it, the subject matter, setting, characters, everything sorta screamed out for a humorous bent. It was a happy accident. Now is the book funny? Humor’s very subjective. Reader’s calls.
CC: Well, I certainly enjoyed the humour, and I loved your central character – Charlie Broadmoor. I kept wanting to tell him to stop taunting that member of the audience. You knew it was going to end badly, but he just kept on teasing him. So engaging and authentic. Kobal was a masterful demon too. I believe there is to be a sequel. Can you tell us what we can expect from Kobal in the future?
SRW: Thanks Cat. Well, regarding Charlie, I’m a sucker for everyman sad sack characters (being one myself). If you can’t root for the lead character in a book, it doesn’t work for me. Of course, the villain has to be as strong as the lead, too. Now there’s not a sequel to Comb-Over. But I have written a prequel: The Book of Kobal. As suggested, it’s my demon Kobal’s tale up until the events in Demon with a Comb-Over. I had a lot of fun writing it, although it’s much darker than Comb-Over. And outrageously irreverent (might get me in trouble with some Bible thumpers). Kobal manipulates Satan into battling angels, spanks Hitler and gets into a hissy slap fight with Jesus. Oh, and he totally destroys a disco during the ‘70’s. Violent, gruesome, sickly funny stuff.
Alas, with the closing of Samhain Publishing, the book is currently without a publisher. (One beta reader told me that no one should read it!)
CC: I think it sounds like great fun. Come on publishers, sign Stuart up so I can read it!
Moving onto your other work, you have also written a comedy whodunit – Bad Day In A Banana Hammock. How did that one come about?
SRW: Simple! It was my way of selling out! What better way to sell books than have a vapid male stripper as the lead and his very pregnant, very cranky sister as the brains? Most fun I’ve had writing a book, actually. I plan on a sequel later this year.
In fact, genre-wise, you’re hard to pin down – The Ghosts of Gannaway is a story about a seriously haunted mine. Then there’s your dark horror thriller Godland and much more besides. Tell us a bit more about your other books and why you choose to write in so many diverse genres.
SRW: Catherine, I’m probably not doing myself any favors by writing all over the board. Readers never know what to expect. The way I like it, though. I can’t imagine writing the same type of book over and over. As long as I’m interested, I’ll keep experimenting. I have a children’s picture book coming out later this year and there’s a straight up romantic comedy in my future. But horror’s always my first love, something I keep getting drawn back to.
Ghosts of Gannaway was the toughest book I’ve written. I spent two or three months in research alone! (Not doing historical horror ever again). Godland is my dark psychological horror tale, a puzzle piece that I’m proud of. Then there’s my YA paranormal, mystery, comedy, romance quartet, Tex, the Witch Boy which deals with current topical issues. Oh! And my morbidly amusing serial killer thriller series, Killers Incorporated.
The only links between the books? Every one is a bit autobiographical (except, um, I’m not a witch nor a serial killer) and they all take place (at least partially) in Godforsaken Kansas.
CC: Speaking of Kansas, you say that your home state provides a lot of inspiration. What is it about the Midwest that inspires your writing?
SRW: Inspiration’s giving Kansas a lotta credit, Catherine! Well, I’m stuck here for better or worse. But as I like writing dark, Kansas is full of creepy things and people. It gave birth to the heinous Westboro Baptist Church for crying out loud! There’s still an active KKK branch, mafia, black magic worshippers. Lots of gist for my books.
CC: Right. That certainly sounds scary! Now, what is the hardest lesson you have learned in relation to your writing?
SRW: Ah...don’t give up your day job? Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys? Don’t poke a sleeping bear?
What are you working on now?
SRW: Dread and Breakfast is another Samhain contracted book that’s currently in need of a new home. Think Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, only it’s modern day and takes place at a bed and breakfast during a terrible Midwestern blizzard.
Wait...where’s that blurb when I need it? Hey, here it is!
During one of the worst winter storms in recent history, a handful of people converge at the Dandy Drop Inn, a Midwest bed and breakfast. A courageous woman and her young daughter fleeing for their safety; an immoral accountant with one last plan to make his mark; a happily married hit-man with a code of honor; a psychotically enraged police detective; a germophobic mobster and his nephew; and a young newlywed couple with a very strange honeymoon in mind. Some come out of desperation, some by design, some because the storm gives them no other choice. All of them have secrets. But none of them are as dark as the secret deep within the Dandy Drop Inn.
I’m also wrapping up the third and final book in my Killers Incorporated saga. Yay!
CC: I love the title and the story sounds great. Thank you so much for being my guest today, Stuart. I'm sure your creative, original and highly entertaining work will soon find a new home
SRW: Thanks for having me on, Cat. It was a gas and a half!
Stuart’s Amazon page: Horror and humor just waiting to be clicked!
Stuart’s blog: Rants, ravings and other fun crap from the Midwest