David James Keaton’s fiction has appeared in Noir At The Bar, Beat To A Pulp, Needle, Pulp Modern, The Fiddleback, Pulp Pusher, Yellow Mama, Pank, Burnt Bridge, Dirty Noir, Pure Slush, Shotgun Honey, Dark Sky, and Thuglit, among others, as well as in horror anthologies such as Deadcore, The Death Panel, and Dark Highlands. Recently, he won a Best Short Story on the Web Spinetingler Award for his roulette scam in Crime Factory, and his coach-killing contribution to Plots With Guns #10 was named a Notable Story of 2010 by storySouth’s Million Writer’s Award. David received his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flywheel Magazine, now featuring more wheels than flies, although he is working to remedy this. He’s scribbled enough pages for nine books and is constantly rewriting three screenplays; a prison movie, a thriller, and a western, simultaneously adapting them into novels. He realizes this method is probably backwards
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Let’s see, born around Toledo, Ohio, where it was close enough to Detroit to pretend I was from there instead (something that upsets people from Ann Arbor and Southfield since they cornered the market on that). My first bike was brown and kind of ugly, but inexplicably had the word “Phoenix” on the side, so that made up for it. Found my dad’s stash of stripped horror paperbacks in the garage and got hooked. Went on to get a BFA from Bowling Green State U. and my MFA from the University of Pittsburgh - they filmed the latest Batman movie there right when I was moving out of town, but a friend snagged me a bottle of fake snow from one of the movie sets. Currently, my wife and I live in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s working on her PhD and I’m teaching composition and working on a novel.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I guess that depends on whether it’s horror, weird fiction, of dark fiction? Or at least my limited understanding of those labels. With “horror,” I think of monsters, killers, someone screaming, something that is out to harm the body or the mind. “Weird” makes me think of specific tentacled monstrosities, usually space or water-bound. When I hear “dark fiction,” I look for psychological horror, nihilism, noir, or anything unpleasant that ambles into a literary scenario and happily trashes the place.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I’ve been rediscovering J.G. Ballard lately, specifically Crash and Concrete Island. I grew up with Stephen King and Robert McCammon and Clive Barker like everyone else, and reread them more than anyone, Harlan Ellison, too. As far as new authors (or at least new to me), lately I’ve been discovering Stephen Graham Jones and Joel Rose (Kill Kill Faster Faster).
What are you reading now?
I have a bad tendency to read a lot of books at the same time, and then take a decade to finish them, so right now on the “in progress” table here is McCammon’s Boy's Life, which I started in eighth grade, J. David Osborne’s Low Down Death Right Easy, Kyle Baker’s You are Here, Matt Kindt’s Red Handed, Ben Marcus’ Flame Alphabet, and I found this weird one, ...Or Not to Be: A Collection of Suicide Notes, which is a good double-feature to go with Black Box, a book of airline crash black-box recordings. Those last two are for research. I got Irvine Welsh’s Filth out to read again since the movie’s coming up, and The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones. Recently finished BC Furtney’s Scarla, which is an ugly read, the kind of thing you’d expect to find being broadcast on Videodrome.
Which book do you wish you had written?
Probably House of Leaves, since it was so unique when it landed that I’d never feel the urge to write another book. How’s he going to out-weird that, right? Or The Stand, just so I could fix that ending.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
How about I drop the Hellraiser (Hellbound Heart) box into every “literary” story where I feel the embarrassing urge for a beautifully written, quiet epiphany.
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I think the most unusual thing about my writing habits is that I can’t think of any. No rituals really, except movies on in the background? Or a loud fan (by “fan,” I mean an electric one that spins around, not a groupie, although that would be hilarious). I guess I work out a lot of my fiction polot while in the car since I have an unusually long commute. Okay, this is probably a strange habit now that I think about it - I do text message myself ideas or plot points as a way to remind myself to type them out later. I have hundreds of these texts stockpiled in my crappy ‘90s clamshell phone. That’s probably not the best method for brainstorming. Or driving. If texting while driving is equal to a .9 blood-alcohol level, then texting story ideas while driving is probably equal to a 9-car pileup. There’s probably some cutesy app for brainstorming on those smart phones, but I can’t get one. I waste enough time on the internet as it is, which is probably why I have no good writing habits. The day I take a smart phone into a car, someone should just detonate the vehicle with a bazooka.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Besides this novel thing I’m messing with, right now, I would say my long stories “Queen Excluder” and “Nine Cops Killed For A Goldfish Cracker” from Fish Bites Cop since I spent so much time hammering them out. Or possibly “Schrödinger’s Rat” from the same collection, since I get the most reactions to that story. It seems to freak people out a bit, that one and “Clam Digger,” which I guess falls into the weird fiction category you were asking about earlier, and it was my first attempt to write that specific kind of monster. I probably should have narrowed that answer down better.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
People tend to read what other people are reading. This can be a frustrating lesson when you’re eager for someone to try something new, like your damn book! You want to just yell, “Read my book, damn it. Everybody’s already reading that other one.”
What do you like to do to relax?
Watch movies or play with my Atari Lynx, or click around on my Kindle and end up reading the first page of a dozen books, or watch movies, movies, and more movies. Mostly watch movies. Movies are my version of having a fish tank in the room. Or the radio on. I like them rolling all times. It helps that I don’t have cable TV.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
In May, Comet Press released Fish Bites Cop! Stories To Bash Authorities. The publisher calls it “A collection of horror, dark crime, pulp, and slipstream lampoonery that gleefully rips on police officers, security guards, organized religion, firefighters, police officers, bounty hunters, dyslexic paramedics with dog complexes, police officers, military, middle management, and even more police officers.” It also attacks some people who probably don’t deserve it. I can’t justify it. I’ve also just finished a novel called The Last Projector that I’ve begun to shop around. It contains three intersecting story lines, dealing mostly with a former paramedic turned porn director in the twilight of his career, and also details the mystery surrounding the cover-up of an assault in the back of an ambulance by some noble but misguided paramedics. One paramedic finds himself implicated in rape and subsequently murder when his attempts to spare a woman from the knowledge of her own assault backfires. I’m trying to read more, too. Movies are a problem.