Having Words – The Boys of StrangeHouse Books

When I decided to start running interviews on my blog, I knew I’d run into some very interesting people. Never once did I think I would meet authors, (not one but TWO of them), who parallel my level of weirdness.

After having read Strange Sex and Scary Fucking Stories, (both books put out by StrangeHouse Books and right up my twisted little alley), I got in touch with Kevin Strange and Don Noble to find out what makes them tick…

***

Mandy: Hi! or Bonjour! as some of us Canadians say. Thanks for taking the time to answer my sometimes inane, yet fun questions. (I’ll try to keep my eh’s to a minimum throughout the questioning…) So tell me about yourself, one paragraph each of awesome explanatoriness.

Kevin: First up thank you beautiful authoress Mandy for doing this interview with the ones them call StrangeHouse Books! I’ll let Donnie Boy go first. Take it away, beautiful!

Don: I was born poor and have successfully stayed that way with dreams of being an artist. At a young age I started reading comics, I learned to draw and fell in love with creating my own stories. As I got older, I started playing music, toured, released a couple albums, and found that my writing was easily translated into song. I spent almost a decade doing the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll bit (mostly tampering with psychedelics) and now find myself going full circle, back into my original love. Telling stories.

Kevin: Well, I used to make movies. Really offensive gore/sex/comedy indie movies. I did that for years and years. I made 5 feature films and over a dozen short movies. But shooting guerrilla style, ultra low budget indie movies, while extremely fun, is also extremely limiting in terms of scope and storytelling ability. Eventually I burnt out and felt like I’d told almost everything I had to say at that level of storytelling. So I started StrangeHouse with this beautiful, blue eyed lumberjack. And the rest is extreme horror history!

Mandy: Speaking of history, how did you two meet? I’m sure there’s an interestingly wicked story there… :P

Don: I think I first met Kevin through a crazy chick. I mean…she was nuts. She told me that she used to fly jets for the mafia to deliver heroin. When I asked her when she did that, she replied, “1992.” I counted it up. She would’ve only been twelve at the time. Super hot girl, though. Just crazy. She had psychic powers, the whole shebang. Good times.  She was playing in one of Kevin’s short films (Dead Shit) and I came along to play a Steak ‘n’ Shake zombie. We might have met earlier, but you have to understand, it was my early twenties, I was always drunk. It gets a little foggy.

Kevin: That’s about right. I’ll add that the reason I stayed in touch with the bastard, and eventually asked him to join me on the StrangeHouse adventure, was that when we hung out together (through the crazy girl. Beautiful. Big ass tits!) All Don wanted to talk about was shit like Robert Anton Wilson, psychedelic phenomenon, ancient aliens, alternative history and just a ton of other non mainstream shit. The dude was obviously well read and intelligent, and his love for the arts made it a no brainer when I was ready to start a new chapter in my artistic life, to ask this dude to come along with me and help me re-shape the face of indie horror literature, for better or worse! And 6 months in, I have to say, I have not regretted that  decision once. Dude is a workhorse man. He takes everything I have to throw at him and keeps asking for more. (full homo)

Mandy: Gotta love the crazy girls… we do good work sometimes. ;) Crazy girls aside, you two have paired up and created Strangehouse Books. Tell me (and the readers) a little about Strangehouse Books and it’s two current releases. (Strange Sex and Scary F*cking Stories.)

Don: Well, for a while before Kevin came up with the idea to start a publishing house, we had both started writing. He had transitioned from doing movies, and I had left music. We started this race to see whose short stories could get rejected the most, and then by sometime in late 2011, he proposed the idea of StrangeHouse Books. I said I wanted in, and in January (I think?) we pulled the trigger, and started emptying our wallets.

Strange Sex: A Strange Anthology was purely Kevin there. He wanted to come out of the gates just raunchy and provocative as hell. Since I have no shame, I agreed it was a fantastic fucking idea and immediately began writing a load of short stories just in case no one submitted. Since he’d built a lot of relationships with other artists through Hack Movies, it was the exact opposite. Greatly disturbed and talented folks came out of the wood work. I was very proud to be in those ranks. I keep telling people that book is like the penthouse forum in hell, so much dark, cynical humor in there, and so many great gross out scenes.

Scary Fucking Stories was the accumulation of my bump in the dark, more straight-forward horror. I grew up with the horror genre, and I always knew I could tell a good yarn. I spent a few years three-shits-deep in psychedelics, mainly fresh, wet, super potent fungi, and luckily I was a horror fan and had a good sense of humor, otherwise I might have gone absolutely mad and not just quasi-mad like I am now. Some of the story concepts in that book are blended in from those visions, and hallucinations. I took the big taboo- Death- and tried to weave a new spin, using mysticism and science to create what I thought were creepy, and suspense filled paranormal stories. When I started getting some great responses from them, the idea to make a book of short fiction came to mind. Guess I’m a creepy guy, just finally had to put it on paper.

Kevin: I spent 6 years, starting when I was just 19 years old, managing a chain of indie porn shops in the mid west. I’d been a pervert LONG before that, but the shit I saw and heard in those stores for the better part of a decade, I’ve used as much of my subject matter for my films and now my fiction. Since the Hack Movies (my indie film label) are extremely offensive horror/sex comedies, I wanted to help ease that fan base into StrangeHouse by keeping the subject matter as close as I could. Weird, offensive, totally crazy sex horror stories were the natural progression into StrangeHouse Books. I fucking love Strange Sex. There are so many stories in there that will just fuck you up if you’re not ready for them. It’s the perfect flagship book for our label and if you haven’t read it, you’re missing the fuck out, for real.

Mandy: I have to say I’ve read both books, really enjoyed them and recommend them to friends all the time. Strange Sex was even my coffee table book for a little while. Inquiring minds want to know who or what inspired you to start writing?

Don: I was a huge fan of the comic Spawn and Preacher when I was growing up and every terrible and great zombie movie you could think of. Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street, Gremlins. All those things were constantly playing in my childhood. They were huge early influences in storytelling. I was an avid fan of the old Conan books and Stephen King. As I got older guys like Robert Anton Wilson and books like the Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy appealed to my quirky nature. I think it was my earliest love really, and I’m such a hard-headed fuck I refuse to give it up.

Kevin: As I said earlier, ultra low budget film does not offer the same type of creative outlet as fiction. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, starting with Choose Your Own Adventure books, moving into Goosebumps as I got older (I sometimes read two a day!) and finally when I got into high school, shit like H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker. But what inspires me creatively? (now I’m interviewing myself!) Porn, Saturday Morning cartoons, John Waters movies, Troma, Full Moon Pictures, comic books, ultra gore Japanese flicks like Ichi the Killer and Tokyo Gore Police, cheese-ball 80s horror flicks like C.H.U.D., Chopping Mall, and Street Trash. Just anything generally considered low brow and only technically artistic.

Mandy: We must be around the same age… A lot of those are very familiar to me as well. Now to the extreme opposite side of inspiration, what do you think has been your biggest challenge as an author?

Don: Typos and motherfucking dyslexia. Ha, no really, I think it’s just finding a place away from the world where I can concentrate and not be bothered, or suffer from interference.  With a world filled with cell phones and Facebook, electronics can be like heroin.

Kevin: My biggest challenge as an author is picking one idea to stay excited about. A lot of authors claim to suffer from writers block, or a shortage of ideas that haven’t been done before. I say bullshit! There is no such thing as writer’s block! I get inspired with new ideas while taking shits or jacking off (sometimes both at the same time. Hey! Let’s keep it classy here!). And there hasn’t been a fresh idea since the god damn bible (see what I did there?). Writing is all about putting your personal spin on shit. Thinking outside the box, not in terms of new ideas. Everything you ever write is going to have an intro, a conflict, a climax and a conclusion. There’s only so many ways to tell that story. The thing you can add to it, and make your own, is the flavor of toppings you use on your story pizza. Want to tell a vampire story? Throw in mutants, the apocalypse, ultra gore fight scenes, feral vampires that look more like Predator than Edward Cullen and lots and lots of toxic goo! Except don’t do any of those things cause those are the plot elements of my new novel Vampire Guts in Nuke Town. Steal that shit and I’ll sue the fuck out of you! (not really. Yes really. No, not at all, go ahead, just call it part 2: Return of the nuke! I’ll write an intro for you!)

Mandy: Ha ha, electronics and masturbation… Those are two of my biggest distractions as well. ;) Change of subject… Who are your current favorite author(s)? Favorite novel(s)?

Don: S.M. Stirling and the “Dies the Fire” series.  The “Dark Tower” series by Stephen King. “Death Lands” series by James Axler. Anything by Chuck Palahniuk. Brian Keene’s “The Rising” and “City of the Dead.”

Kevin: I’ve recently (believe it or not, it took this long) gotten into the bizarro/hardcore horror authors like Ed Lee, Carlton Mellick, Jeff Burk, Jordan Krall, etc. I’ve also read a lot of Brian Keene and Jeffery Thomas lately. I’m also into lovecraftian writers like W. H. Pugmire. I’d have to say, my current favorite novel, and the one I’ve been recommending to all of my writer friends, is Mellick’s Ape Shit. It’s just a crazy, ultra offensive 80s horror send up that does not skimp on the shock and awe. Very simplistic but very well done if you’re into schlock.

Mandy: Bonus brownie points for me as Strange Sex is one of my favourites at the moment, which would put the two of you (as well as 11 other authors in this category for me). You know I’m going to ask for a poster when I meet you guys… :P I seriously hope there’s more coming down the pipeline from StrangeHouse Books. What are your current or upcoming projects?

Don: So far I have “Scary Fucking Stories” and “Beer Run of the Dead” out. My next upcoming novel is called, “Grownups Must Die,” a tale that follows how tribes and clans of children survive after an apocalypse of sorts. It’s a darker, more serious work. Ultra-violent. After that, my next novel will be totally bizarro. It’s called, “Apocalypse Meow.”

Kevin: The aforementioned Vampire Guts in Nuke Town will be my debut novel. It follows the main character, Guts, through a post apocalyptic nuked-out wasteland full of deformed mutants, motorcycle gangs, and big, nasty, feral vampires. It’s like my version of Conan. Guts is a character I can always come back to and explore. Writing this novel has been some of the most fun I’ve had in the decade I’ve been writing professionally (Can you really call writing/directing movies like COCKHAMMER professional? And how many times can I use parentheses in this interview?) After that, I’ve got another ultra-gore, super sexual novel coming out called, Face Melting Pizza Freaks. It’s a send up to all the cheesy 80s goo movies like Street Trash, The Blob, Slime City, and The Stuff. You’ll definitely feel like taking a shower after you’re done with that one. Also sometime in there, I’ve got a collection of short fiction called, Murder Stories for your Face Meat coming out. All these should hit in 2012.

Mandy: Hooray! More to add to my bookshelves. I happen to like “real” books, so I usually order the paperbacks. What about you guys, do you prefer Print or Ebook and why?

Don: I haven’t tried the Ebook thing yet, so I can’t really say. I think I’m more old-school. I like having the book on my shelf, and plus, I don’t have to worry if I forgot to charge my book’s battery or not.

Kevin: As both an author and a fan, I’ll always enjoy the tactile sensation of owning and reading a hard copy of a book. I have two bookshelves full of books at home. The eBook thing, just like the digital music craze, it just cheapens the artistic effect. Songs stop being albums, they just become MP3 files to randomly listen to, catalog, and eventually delete. There is no soul in digital art. You can’t connect with an artist through an LCD screen. You can’t have your favorite author sign your Kindle. It’s rubbish man. Fuck eBooks. (Pick up Beer Run of the Dead, and soon the entire Strangehouse Books catalog on your Kindle by surfing over to Amazon.com today! Thanks Joel!)

Mandy: Sign… the… books??? Great idea! I’ve always just gotten my boobs signed, but it always washes off and you can’t not shower. (Lol! Totally just kidding.) I’m sure I’ll have a few things for you guys to sign when I meet up with you guys at a convention somewhere. I’ve noticed on Facebook you guys have been hitting up a lot of cons lately, which is your favourite convention and why?

Don: All the conventions have been a blast. I can’t really pin-point an exact one, but I think I was most surprised by the St. Louis con. Since it’s sort of our hometown, there was a sense that maybe we would be a flop (because people like to think STL is a dead zone), but so far, that’s been our best show. Plus, a good chunk of our friends could make it down, and it’s always nice to burn through some vodka with the locals. Honestly, the biggest, meanest show so far has been HorrorHound. Those guys did it up.

Kevin: I’ve done over 20 shows since 2006, but my favorite show as StrangeHouse on this first year’s worth of book tours was hands down Contamination in St. Louis. We got lots of love and made a shit load of money dollars! But my favorite con town, and the place I’m super stoked to go to next month for Flashback Weekend, (featuring a From Beyond cast reunion!) is Chicago. We’ve had nothing but success up there. Chicago loves to support indie art. I can’t fucking WAIT to show them these twisted ass movie books in color! (It’s a movie book cause it plays in your head…. in color…. get it?)

Mandy: Follow-up question to the con one: What’s your favourite drink? (We’re authors… it’s a valid question.)

Don: Tequila, lime and salt. Although… that is not my “writing” drink. That’s my party-time drink. Vodka or Whiskey, or some cheap beer, PBR will usually do the trick. I’m not a materialist, nor do I have a taste for the expensive stuff. I’m a lush.

Kevin: I didn’t drink for 7 solid years. The entire catalog of Hack Movies was created stone sober. I used to be proud of that fact, until I was so stressed and beaten down by the cold, unforgiving indie art field, that I was driven to start drinking again. And guess what? I’ve found that near a decade of sobriety helps one deal with moderation. (Or maybe it’s that I’m 32 and not 25) I don’t know. But suffice it say, I enjoy my drinky time now. Oh yes. Especially at cons. Find me sober at a show. I dare you! Any hard liquor will do, but lately I’ve been drinking a shit load of Vodka Sprites thanks to my lovely lady friend Kristen Lugosi. (Take a drink every time Kevin goes parenthetical. You’ll be hammered by now!)

Mandy: First rounds on me when we meet. Topic change! Time for something more serious… Everyone seems to be up in arms over reviews at the moment, how important are reviews to your work?

Don: Since I’ve only been published this year, reviews to me are more about learning about my works through the eyes of others. I want to see how my work has affected someone, whether it’s good or bad, that doesn’t really matter. I know I can’t please everyone. Shit, the best responses have been from older family members who decided to buy my stuff. The older folks couldn’t really handle it. “It’s written well, I mean you’re a great writer, but Jesus, it was too fucked up to get through.” That’s been the best so far. Plus they’ll never ask me to baby sit again. I enjoy that.

Kevin: Reviews have always been integral to my indie art. I don’t have the budget to advertise, so it’s always been the word-of-mouth from die hard horror fans that has spread my perversion around the globe and allowed me this tiny bit of cult infamy that I’m grateful to possess. BUT! Having said that. Don’t ever, EVER take these things to heart. It’s just one fucko’s opinion. I’ve had one critic call a scene from a Hack Movie the worst thing he’d ever seen in a film, hands down. And another say, of the exact same scene mind you, that it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen on film, and that it made him an instant fan for life. I’ve been called the worst filmmaker of all time. I’ve been called a poser trying to BE the worst filmmaker of all time. (How’s that for a kick in the nuts?) I’ve been called the next Kevin Smith and one of the most original voices in indie horror. You just NEVER KNOW! So don’t let the bad reviews get you down. Don’t ever let critics question your writing ability. Write for your damn self! If you put something out into the world you’re not proud of and happy with, then it’s your own fucking fault and maybe you deserve to be put in your place. Calm down and write shit that you want to read that nobody else is putting out. Like a mutant gangbang with tiny deformed humanoids that shoot green squirmy jism all over a porcupine girl (again, from Vampire Guts in Nuke Town). Otherwise, do what I do. Look for any sentence that can be construed as a positive and use it on your cover art all big like, then send the snarky asshole a picture of it in an email. :)

Mandy: Since you both have stories and books out or coming out, you must be doing something right. Would you have any advice for other writers?

Don: Learn some mechanics of telling a story. Really, brush off some of the English classes, and just write. One word at a time, every goddamn day. I would never worry about being original, completely original. Everything has been done. Between the Greeks and the Simpsons you’re already fucked on that. Find a story you want to write, and tell it your own way. I’ve read tons of stuff in the same universe, tons of zombie and apocalyptic shit. A lot of the basic ideas are the same, but it’s in the new characters, and the new scenes. Those things keep drawing me back in.  Add your own spice, and really, just write.

Kevin: Yeah. Quit fucking trying to re-invent the wheel. You’re not going to write the next Fight Club or The Rising. Those guys didn’t sit down to write a cult classic. They set out to write a fun story. Write shit that makes you whoop and pace around your desk when you finish it. Get fucking excited about writing instead of acting so insecure and passive/aggressive about it! You’re a fucking artist of words. Be fucking proud of it! Yes anyone can open a word processor and write fiction, but not everybody can rape, torture, and kill the same chick in a novel 5 separate times! (Guess what post apocalyptic vampire book that’s from? Oh and take another drink.)

Mandy: I’m not playing the drinking game. I’d never get this interview posted… Okay so we all know that I’m no fortune teller, I wish… but I’m not. In this case, I’ll need you to tell me what are your plans for the future, either writing or otherwise?

Don: I plan to keep writing, and building StrangeHouse Books with ol’ Kevin Strange. I want to write till people beat me to death with my own literature. Eventually, I would love to get back into film, and I’m sitting on an unreleased album I might put out in a year or so, but I’m at home here. Until I can build an Iron Man suit, this is what I plan to do.

Kevin: Writing, writing and fucking more writing. And when I’m not writing? Touring the books I write. And in between those things? Signing other bad ass authors and taking them out on tour with me to the great mid western USA where it is still, and will always be, 1985. The mid west, where you can meet 80s action stars like Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds, 80s porn stars like Seka and Ron Jeremy, AND see crazy motherfuckers like StrangeHouse Books all at the same show!

Shout out to our newest partner and head editor of StrangeHouse Books, Nicholas Day! (who will no doubt cringe at the amount of grammatical mistakes in these interview answers) Shout out to Mikey Lombardo at ReelSplatter.com! (who gets horribly murdered in Pizza Freaks!) Shout out to StrangeHouse editors Sean Ferrari and Joel Blair! Shout out to those two chicks from Fright Night Film Fest! Shout out to the motherfucking Sexsquach! Peace Bitches! Strangehouse fo Life!

Mandy: I’d like to thank Kevin and Don for participating in my second instalment of Having Words, here on MandyDegeit.com. It’s comforting to know there are other writers just as weird as I am. I shall end this interview with pictures of the boys in their natural habitat. (Just so you know who they are and can either seek them out or avoid them. Whichever one fits your needs more.) ~MDG~

Don Noble

Don Noble

Kevin Strange

Kevin Strange

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