|Tired of the same old zombies and decadent vampires that are too chic to enjoy? We want to say that the werewolf genre is alive a howling thanks to Oklahoma native Steven Wedel who is our special victim for this Halloween week. He digs metal and his books rock, so after you read this, check him out! |
Horror author Brian Keene said that the next big thing will be werewolves and that we may see an update in the werewolf mythos. You've focused mainly on werewolves for your stories and novels, so can you go further into your take on the archetype. Is the werewolf still essentially a represntative battle of id/superego, Apollonian potential/Dionysian desires? How do yours differ?
Whoa. You didn't tell me I'd actually have to think for this interview, Dr. Freud. The short answer to the first part of your question is yes, the werewolf is -- and I imagine always will be -- a representative of the battle between the id and superego, or the Apollonian/Dionysian conflict. We don't have a primary werewolf text like we do for the vampire with "Dracula." One piece of literature that is often cited as a primary werewolf text is Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde," which perfectly illustrates the conflict, though traditional werewolf fans will be disappointed since Mr. Hyde isn't actually a wolf-man.
The werewolf represents the raw, wild power we know is within us. And, as an animal, our identity is hidden, allowing us to get away with whatever debauchery we indulge ourselves in while in that shape. In the old werewolf stories, the person would take off his clothes to become a werewolf and could not change back to human if you hid his clothes. No other creature wears clothes, so the removal of clothing before becoming a beast is a great metaphor for shedding the moral codes we have established for our conduct as humans.
How do my werewolves differ? Not so much, really, though there are variations on the theme with different characters. Shara, for instance, perfectly fits the Apollonian/Dionysian conflict mold. She begins the novel Shara as a horribly shy and repressed girl who accepts the Gift in hopes it will give her self confidence... allow her to tap into her Dionysian potential. Once she has it, though, she wants to get back to the Apollonian side of life.
Josef Ulrik, the werewolf mentor, represents something closer to nature. He's found the balance in the Appolonian/Dionysian conflict and is at peace in that regard. He has his own goals and his own demons that become apparent later, though.
Is there anything coming up with your writings that you can give an exclusive on?
There's really nothing I haven't talked about in my blog. The new edition of Shara should be available by mid-November. My haunted house novella, Seven Days in Benevolence, should be available in paperback later this fall. Both those are from Scrybe Press. Fine Tooth Press is releasing a new edition of my short story collection Darkscapes this fall. I'm working on the sequel to Shara, which I'm calling Ulrik. Scrybe Press wants to release that early next summer. I can tell you that Ulrik has a much faster pace than Shara; my critique group says it's my best work to date. I can tell you that in the new book we finally learn what Ulrik means when he says, "The Pack is gathering. There can be no culls among us.
"I've got a story in the "Corpse Blossoms" anthology that I'm very, very excited about. If you'd told me 20 years ago I'd be in an anthology with Ramsey Campbell I'd have called you a liar. But there it is. Bentley Little and a bunch of other great writers are in there, too.
I've got some novels with other publishers, but unfortunately I don't have any news to share about those.
Can the werewolf be made into a popular fantasy of upper-class decadence like Anne Rice did with Vampires?
Oh, maybe. I don't know. I suppose if we can buy Bruce Wayne as Batman we could accept upper-class werewolves. But I don't think that would go over well. Like I said, the werewolf is an expression of our secret desire to become the animal savage. The upper-class getting unleashed, so to speak, would pretty much seem like the privileged just getting more of the good stuff, I think.
I know my werewolves would shred Anne Rice's Louis if he didn't stop that damn whining.There's the idea that the werewolf is a blue-collar monster. I think it's more than that. Ulrik is very rich in my stories, but you won't catch him wearing "butter-soft" black leather or red velvet like Lestat. I think werewolves are more practical. Maybe it's because they usually aren't portrayed as immortal, or because they're alive night and day. Or, maybe you just can't be upper class when you know that at any moment you can change shape and lick your own balls.
But, 500 years ago nobody would have thought of a vampire as sexy. They were emaciated corpses, stinking and covered in dirt from their graves. So, anything's possible.
As far as Hollywood movies, has the werewolf grown long in the tooth?
Oh no. Hollywood very seldom gets anything right, especially when it comes to the werewolf. There are a handful of good werewolf movies, but most are bad B movies that focus on gore with laughable transformation scenes by cardboard characters. There's so much that could be explored with the werewolf. But, you know... maybe I'm saying that because I'd like to see Neil Jordan or Peter Jackson do a film of Shara.
Can you tell every body what "The Werewolf Saga" is:
Basically, it's me falling in love with my characters. I can't let go, man! Originally, Shara was a short story called "Biological Clock." Then I expanded on the character until I had a novel. It was supposed to be a stand-alone novel, but toward the end I got this idea for a scene between Shara and her son when he's about eight years old. Then I kept writing short stories about Ulrik's history. The characters wouldn't go away, so now I have a series.
The second werewolf book, which is now billed as Book One of The Werewolf Saga since everything has moved over to Scrybe Press, is called Murdered by Human Wolves. It's based on true events that took place in Konawa, Oklahoma, in 1917. Konawa is a tiny town. There's a grave stone there that says Katherine Cross was "Murdered by human wolves." When I started doing research on Cross, the little known about her death fit perfectly with the mythology I'd created for Shara, so I incorporated it into a fictional account of what happened to her.
The other book in the series that's out right now is Call to the Hunt, a collection of short stories introduced by Kelley Armstrong. Most of the stories are about Ulrik, but we meet characters who are important later in the series. About a year ago, the overall story arc for The Werewolf Saga finally materialized. We'll see what it is in Ulrik, though it won't be resolved in that book, either.
Are we still feeling a post-9/11, global terrorism after-affect on the field of horror in the U.S.?
I don't think so. Not directly, anyway. We've become a culture with a short memory. The Vietnam War is ancient history to a huge portion of the population. With the constant feed of electronic media, we're only interested in what's in the headlines right now. So, we're concerned with the side effects of 9/11... the war in Iraq and the political wrangling over it, how it's affecting our gas prices, etc., but most of us are not thinking about the World Trade Center towers collapsing or the people jumping out the windows any more.
There's a theory that after a crisis like 9/11 people will turn to fiction and film horror as escapism, but I don't necessarily see that. Horror booms tend to happen in peaceful times like the 1930s, the 1950s and the 1980s.
You wrote about horror settings before. Are we still pretty much in the Postmodern American Gothic with no physical frontiers left or are we cycling back into prior settings like the home or urban landscape?
That's a good question. I really feel like we're coming out of the Postmodern era and into something new, but I'm not sure yet what it is. We're at such a bizarre stage in our evolution as a culture. We tend to isolate ourselves in our homes, but once safely inside we connect to the world through our computers and chat with people on other continents in a way we wouldn't even think about talking with our neighbors. And we're seeing influences from places we haven't in the past, such as Japan. As we absorb more Eastern ideas into our culture, we're going to change. The next couple of decades will be intersting to watch.
From horror author Brian Keene (www.briankeene.com): "When are you gonna quit fooling with werewolves and write a zombie novel?"
Okay, actually, my very first novel dealt with zombies. That was originally written back in about 1988. Earlier this year I decided I wanted to grab a teat on the cash cow Keene's been milking, so I rewrote that novel, called The Prometheus Syndrome, and it's being looked at by a publisher right now. But it's not a zombie apocalypse novel like Keene's books. My novel is about rage, rock-n-roll, hillbillies, a mad scientist, a ghost and a zombie. I think there's a kitchen sink in there, too, but only one zombie. Unless you count the raccoon. You can't count the squirrel because it exploded.
What I want to know is when is Keene going to throw Ob in the ring against Ulrik for a supernatural smackdown. That could make a nice claymation feature movie.
Has the zombie craze in Hollywood movies finally run it's course?
That Keene feller is probably hoping not! I don't know that it has. For myself, I haven't been satisfied with it yet. But then, I seem to be in a minority that thought the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" sucked ass. Even Romero's "Land of the Dead" was lacking in plot and the allegory we've come to expect from him.
I have high hopes for the film version of Keene's "The Rising". I think it could be the best of the action/horror zombie movies. We'll see.
I'd like to see a zombie movie heavy with political symbolism. I feel like too many of us are zombies of our political party, always taking whatever side the pundits from our party tell us to take. We don't want to be troubled thinking for ourselves, and when anyone disagrees with our views we mindlessly attack.
There also seems to be a lot of warped childen featured in horror movies over the last few years. Any reason?
Do you have kids? Kids ARE warped. I have four of them. I'm a slow learner.
What's worse than seeing the innocence of a child spoiled by something evil? What do we hold more precious than our children? Hopefully, nothing. So, when we see a kid gone bad we see the thing we love most turned against us.
Do you think the Japanese horror craze was overrated or significant?
It was definitely significant. It's always good to have new ideas pumped into the genre. Our Western culture has been dealing with the same Judeo-Christian themes for a long, long time. Even people here who claim to be atheists are steeped in that tradition. Eastern culture, though, is very different. They value different things, so different things scare them. We've reached a point we're open to exploring those ideas, so we can explore that fear, too.
To you, what's the scariest film of all time and why?
On a psychological level it's probably the original "Night of the Living Dead." The idea of seeing your dead family members and friends rising, then coming after you... of so many of these mindless things coming after you. The heroes of the movie are completely dysfunctional. They can't get over their own issues to truly band together against what's coming after them. Is that how we would be if faced with that crisis? The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina makes me think we would. Then, the last man standing in the movie gets popped by the people he thinks are there to rescue him.
|"you just can't be upper class when you know that at any moment you can change shape and lick your own balls"|
On a visceral level, though, it's "The Birds." Alfred Hitchcock just messed me up with that movie. Even today I can't watch it without cringing.
What some of your favorite horror novels out there?
How much bandwidth do you have available? We'll ignore the fact that some of these authors say they don't write horror. William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist and Legion are at the top of my list. Stephen King's The Shining and Pet Sematary. Stoker's Dracula and T.E.D. Klein's The Ceremonies. I haven't read a Brian Keene book I haven't liked. Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, Memnoch the Devil and The Witching Hour. I'm leaving out a ton of books, but those are the ones that come to mind quickest.
Who've you been reading lately your field? Are there any underground horror writers you want to tune us into?
I'm alternating between reading Dante's The Divine Comedy and L. Sprague de Camp's biography on H.P. Lovecraft at the moment. Other authors I've read recently include Karen Koehler, James A. Moore and Ray Garton.
There are a lot of underground writers everyone should know about. Gary A. Braunbeck hasn't had the exposure he deserves. Wrath James White writes some of the most brutal stuff you'll ever see... but he does it in a way that you want to roll in it. A local buddy of mine, Craig Wolf, needs more exposure. Angeline Hawkes-Craig is incredibly prolific and I'm sure she's written something for anyone who reads. So many of my friends are underground horror authors that it's hard to pick out a few.
Is there a real lack of women horror writers out there?
There's not a lack of women horror writers, there's just a lack of big-name women horror writers. Karen and Angie, who I've already named, have that potential. Charlee Jacob is another who's gotten a mass market deal but hasn't hit it really big yet. Karen E. Taylor, Sephera Giron, Marcy Italiano, Mary Sangiovanni. There are a lot of ladies in waiting, ready to pleasure mass audiences if given the opportunity.
What's *your* favorite work professionally and personally?
Of my own? What I'm working on is always my favorite, though I think my best book is Amara's Prayer, a novel under consideration at a major house. It was my graduate thesis, too. It's a novel with an actual theme, with symbolism. It's almost literary, if I can dare say that. But I probably have more fun, and am more comfortable, in the world of my werewolves.
Ever get writers block and if so, how do you combat it?
Writer's block is a myth. Seriously. I've worked for two daily newspapers, including the largest newspaper in Oklahoma, where I led the newsroom in number of bylines almost every month. You don't write, you don't get paid. It may be uninspired drivel, but you keep writing and you'll get through that.
That isn't to say I don't procrastinate like crazy, but that's different.
Should writers pay attention to critics? Only when the toilet paper is running low. If you're getting paid for your work and it's finding an audience, the critics don't matter.
Now, we're just gonna throw a bunch of names for you to write the first thing off the top of your head:
Edgar Allan Poe-- Master!
H.P. Lovecraft-- A sad, twisted genius.
Richard Matheson-- Subtle "Twilight Zone" writer
Shirley Jackson-- Hit or miss, but lethal when she hits
Clive Barker-- "In the Hills, the Cities"
Stephen King-- Jumped the shark
Ramsey Campbell-- Perfect British horror
Charles L. Grant-- Quiet but deadly
Anne Rice-- Reached a point she doesn't need an editor... and doesn't need me as a reader
Poppy Z. Brite-- I am not a bigot!
Brian Keene-- Darker than he who is darker than dark
Now on to some METAL! Do you ever get any inspiration from any rock songs for your writings?
Yes. It's hard to point at anything specifically because metal and horror are all wrapped up together for me, dating back to the heyday of Kiss and Gene Simmons puking blood and spitting fire. Iron Maiden inspired me to read the books that inspired many of their songs. Mostly, I think, it's the raw power of metal that inspires me more than specific songs, though there are times when one or two songs seem to fit whatever I'm writing and I'll listen to them repeatedly. That happened with The Prometheus Syndrome, though I doubt anyone would consider Billy Squier to be metal.
If you could introduce somebody to Metal, what 10 songs would you play them?
Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
Black Sabbath's - Paranoid
AC/DC's - Highway to Hell
Kiss' - Rock and Roll All Nite
Metallica's - Harvester of Sorrow
Rob Zombie's - Black Sunshine
Judas Priest's - Beyond the Realms of Death
Alice Cooper's - Welcome to My Nightmare
AC/DC's - Hell's Bells
Deep Purple's - Smoke on the Water
We hear you used to be a walking trivia book of metal. What happened?
I got old, man. I got old and my favorite bands broke up, or changed drastically, and I couldn't find anybody I liked enough to replace them, so I just kept listening to their backlist. MTV tried to kill metal by putting shit like Bon Jovi and Winger on the Headbangers Ball. Then came grunge. With my choices limited to Nirvana or Judas Priest without Rob Halford, I put in "Defenders of the Faith" and said the '80s were back, baby.
You grew up in the 80's. Did you enjoy the hairbands or were they just poseurs?
I enjoyed the hell out of early Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and bunch of the others. But then you had people like Winger who grew long hair apparently to cash in on the metal scene. Have you gotten the idea that I hate Winger? The Crue, and especially Twisted Sister, lost their edge and kept trying to churn out the next power ballad. Oh, and the Scorpions... talk about the demise of a good band. They spent years trying to make it as a metal act, got a hit ballad and just went to hell from there. Not in the good way, either.
Ever try to take up an instrument and actually play some metal.
Oh yeah. I wanted to be the next K.K. Downing. I lacked the patience for it, though. I can play the opening to several classic metal songs, but that's it. I did write a bunch of lyrics, but since I can't sing and can't play an instrument I never did anything with them.
Who's on your playlist right now?
It's eclectic. Everything from Styx to the Rolling Stones to Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels and Wednesday 13. I've been playing the shit out of Wednesday 13 and The Murderdolls lately. I don't know how I lived without an MP3 player to hold a little of everything I like.
Ever get to take in any concerts over in your parts?
Yeah. It's not so easy now that I'm the responsible parent, though. The last big show I saw was the Kiss/Aerosmith tour. Since then I've seen Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Loverboy at the local amusement park And there was...was... KC & the Sunshine Band last year. Too many of the shows I want to see don't come close enough.
You know you're bringing up the kids right, though, when your five-year-old daughter says she wants to see Kiss and can sing most of "Rock and Roll All Nite" and "Firehouse."
Are most metal bands better in their early years?
Yes. Usually, metal is about that raw energy of misunderstood youth, about aggression. If a band finds success and is able to stay around for a while, the money and fame seem to soften them. Some can adapt and keep going. Some change members and it's actually good, like when AC/DC had to replace Bon Scott. But, using AC/DC as an example, they're no longer angry young men and they're not doing anything new musically. Metallica is a band that has adapted pretty well as the members get older.
Which do you prefer:
Ozzy Sabbath or Dio Sabbath: Dio (not to put down the Ozzy years, though)
Priest or Maiden: Priest
Alice Cooper or Alice in Chains: Alice Cooper
Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper: Alice Cooper
Grunge or Nu Metal: Alice Cooper (I know it wasn't a choice, but ...)
Japanese horror or British horror: British
Rob Zombie--music or movies: Music... for now, but I think he understands horror better than most directors and has great potential
Now, to get al bit goofy:It's said that there's a fine line between genius and insanity. Which side of the line are you on?
I wake up on the genius side, but have crossed way over into insanity by the time I go back to bed.
There are two pills in front of you--the blue one makes you supersmall; the red one makes you superbig. Which do you take and why:
The red one, because size matters. If I was big enough and bad enough maybe I could put Kiss back together and make them tour again.
What's one of your guilty pleasures (cheap reality shows, pop music CDs, etc.)
John Madden football for the PC.
Has your Karma begun to caramelize?
I'd probably be better off if it did. There are some things I just don't want coming back on me.
If you had a say in your reincarnation, which would you choose to be?
Hunchback. I love the sound of bells... and every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, right? I also have this thing for gypsy dancers.
Would you be buried in a KISS coffin?
Yes, and preferably wearing a Kiss Kondom. Just in case I rise from the dead.
Ever tried Viagra?
Nope. My wife already has her hands full.
What scream queen's leg would you most like to run up to and hump?
Linnea Quigly... she likes it spooky.
Who's gonna win the Super Bowl this year?
It won't be the Minnesota Vikings, so I really don't care.
And finally...how do you intend to celebrate Halloween?
Probably dressed as a zombie -- maybe as Brian Keene as a zombie. No...I'm not cutting my hair for that. I'll shamble along after the kids as they trick-or-treat, then come home and watch some PG-13 horror movie with them.