Ginger Nuts of Horror
Martin Rose writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre. His latest horror novel, Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell, is available from Talos, with short fiction appearing in Handsome Devil and Urban Green Man anthologies, and slated to appear in anthologies like Death's Realm from Grey Matter Press, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, and Insidious Assassins from Smart Rhino.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I'm a writer, I enjoy writing across genres, from horror to fantasy to sci-fi. I reside in New Jersey, but I've lived numerous places across the country. I've got a background in graphic design.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I tend to occupy my time with a variety of pursuits. When I don't want to think, I spend a lot of time plowing my little patch of garden. If feel stuck in a problem with no solution, I might pick up my guitar and play to decompress. I study languages. I've been plowing away at Russian, Spanish, German, and Italian and suck only slightly less at them than I did last year. I fix my house, which has many things that need fixing. A lot of reading occupies my time, naturally, which is a given for most writers. I try to keep an active body along with an active mind.
What’s your favourite food?
Ceviche. Especially if it's served to me in Venezuela.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
My life story? John Mellencamp, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Neverending White Lights, Her Name Is Calla. Heavy on Her Name Is Calla. And many more I can't name.
Tell us a dirty little secret?
Oh, my. I used to work in a video store that had a porn room in the back.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
That's a hard question to answer. Sometimes, you don't get out. Sometimes, you just suffer it.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have a lot of favourites. When I was younger I really got into Stephen King and Anne Rice, but as you grow you change, you set your sights on something different as you cultivate your tastes. I got into John Fowles, for a bit, stretched back and found Edith Wharton, Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte. Later on, Clive Barker, Graham Joyce, Robert Holdstock. I like reading works with psychological underpinnings, works about mythology. These days I'm a huge fan of Laird Barron's work. His work led me to John Langan and in turn to Stephen Graham Jones. Currently, I'm reading Robin Hobb, whose fantasy universe I adore, and I've new favourites to add to my overflowing list: Sophocles and Ovid.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Ovid's Metamorphosis, I just finished. You want to talk about great, I can't overstate how astounding that work is. I was quite devastated by the use of language, the story telling style, and this extraordinary simplistic but effective communication. It made me feel small. It made me feel like an idiot. It made me realize how incompetent I am. And I really celebrated that. I want to do something so profound, so life-altering. Reading truly great books feels like leveling up, sometimes. But it burns the pride something fierce.
Meanwhile, disappointing books have something of an opposite effect. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was one such a book. I had a lot of high hopes for it. I was crushed, because I truly wanted to like it.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
I can answer both of those with one title: Hamlet. Though technically not a novel, and some would argue over why I call it horror, I'm sure; but recently, I also have been looking on Oedipus Rex as possibly the most horrifying thing I've ever read as well as a favourite.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would it be?
Why on earth would I throw out a weapon when I could just fix it and put it to new, innovative use?
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Hannibal would be an excellent neighbour. Obviously, because everyone on the street would be on their best behaviour and the dinner parties would be, oh, to die for. I know, I will never be forgiven for that pun. Now that my reputation is in tatters, my nightmare neighbour would be Victor Frankenstein. I could deal with the Frankenstein monster, but the doctor, I imagine, would be a pain in the ass.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you choose and how would they die?
I'd have to be desperate. I wouldn't want to kill. It would have to be a method of last resort. I suppose I could be funny and pick a character that “irritates” me, but even in jest I can't summon up that much vitriol for a fake character. Sometimes those characters you love to hate are the ones that really make the story. I honestly don't have an answer for that one.
And if you had free range what fictional character would you like to write for?
Free range with a fictional character? That's a tall order. I can't really say. Oh, you know, there is one, in particular, actually. Stephen King was talking about Doctor Sleep awhile ago (which I haven't read yet), because it follows the story of Danny Torrance, and I think the theory was that people would be intrigued to know how Danny turned out now that he was older. I don't know why, but that kind of bothered me, because I really wanted to know what happened to Charlie McGee, you know, of Firestarter. She lights shit on fire with her mind, man! What could be more rad than that? And I actually spent a good deal of time thinking about that in a way I'm not generally prone to. I wish he would revisit her. I found her storyline infinitely more interesting than Danny's.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Doesn't matter, not only because I don't think my opinion on it matters much, but having explored the grand sweep of literature from antiquity to the present day, we're just a blip. It's not enough to say, “oh, the genre's doing swimmingly!” or “oh, it's a travesty!” It's not easy to make a broad generalization about the genre when there's so many specifics working into it. I hear complaints about horror being done away with in book stores, but horror's not going anywhere. It's always with us. It will always be with us. It would seem some people are put off by the H word. The label changes, but the content stays the same. That's all. I've heard complaints that horror today is terrible compared to the horror of yester-year, but the horror is changing. That's all. Everything changes. I've always embraced complexity and change. It's staying the same that tends to sink and damage you.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing horror fiction right now?
Economics. I mean, it used to be you had only six major publishing houses with some scattered independent presses. It used to be if you wanted to watch television, you went into the living room and hit the ON button. Technology has changed all that. Now, you can pull your entertainment from more choices and more supply lines than ever before, so you see, this can be great if you're a buyer – but not if you're a big business looking to scoop up massive profit, which you might see fit to bestow upon your writers in the form of six figure advances. Self-publishing has come onto the scene and created a massive over supply, alongside traditional publishing, which devalues the product across the board. (This is basic economics, not a value judgement on how people choose to enter into publishing, mind you.) The biggest problem facing horror fiction right now is money, plain and simple, just as it's affecting every business these days. How we get it, how it flows, its velocity and relationship to supply and demand. In the absence of it, writers and publishers are going to have get increasingly creative.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Yes, there are, actually. On both sides. I've seen negative reviews that I laughed at. I mean, I hear authors get very heated when their work has been “insulted,” but I myself am still a reviewer. I've dished it out. I knew what I signed up for. But it has to be significant to get under my skin. I think only one bad review really concerned me, since I was one of maybe forty stories in an anthology, yet they spent half the review discussing my contribution, and didn't dare put my name to it. That's a lot of text to dedicate to someone whose work you despise. You have to love it first, to hate it that much later. That's when you know you hit a raw wound.
What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
Editing. It's difficult, but rewarding.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Truthfully, there's very little I would shy away from if the story called for it. It's not always the subject matter that's taboo, but the way it's depicted.
What do you think makes a good story?
I'm still finding that out for myself. I don't think I'll have a better answer than that, even by the time I'm ready for the grave.
How important are names to you in your books?
Not very. I do try to make an effort to think of something that is less used, so I'll try to find name lists sorted by popularity, and start from the bottom. That way, it's both familiar but uncommon.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Coffee for writing, hard liquor for editing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Lloyd Alexander told me I was weird, once. I think that's about as close as I'm ever going to get.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
“Arrogant.” I'm sure there's worse I haven't heard.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Marketing has a lot of challenges. I prefer a “soft” approach. I think most everyone is familiar with the “BUY MY BOOK” style, and that's something I try to get away from. That said, being a new author in this particular time is very challenging. I've been writing on a professional level for about five years or so, and some would say I'm quite young to already have a novel through traditional publishers. (That's what happens when you're “arrogant,” apparently.) The downside to this you really don't have the kind of resources that, ideally, a more experienced author who's been involved for a decade would have. But everyone starts somewhere, and I think it's difficult no matter how many resources you have available to you. Getting books into the hands of people who will read it is my first priority, and that's hard when people don't know your name and are already swamped with review material. Branding is hard when you're starting out. I think the best approach is to remember that you are representing your book with every interaction you have, and most of all, to engage with people. If people are interested, they'll look you up, but strong-arm tactics tend to have the opposite effect. Interviews like these are one of the ways I get the message out there.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My favourite? I think I say this all the time, but I actually am not a big fan of my own main character, but people seem to like him, a lot. I think he's a bit of a psychopath, which is largely intended to be a knock-on effect of his undead state. But sometimes I go back and forth between liking characters. I guess in the end, I don't have a favourite. If I did, I wouldn't be able to give them the kind of vitality I think they have in Bring Me Flesh, because it would be apparent that I didn't love them equally, in a sense. By caring about them with equal discipline, that's how I make them leap off the page. I have to love them all.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
The main character, definitely. For reasons stated above, because I'm actually not a zombie fan. I'm not a fan of Vitus. I wouldn't like to know him in real life. I'd think him an awful person, but that doesn't mean the story is awful, by any means! I'll leave that up to readers to decide. But that's the point. He's not human. His brain is dead. Those centres of our brain that we depend on to be good and compassionate people are dead in him. So he can't be a good and compassionate person. I also think that's what made him the most exciting to write about. Because I had to ask questions, well, what would push through his numbness, his dead-ness, to awaken feelings once more? Now that, that's the challenge. So it may seem like a strange answer, that the least favourite, was also the best to write about, but in my life, that's the way of it. Some of the worst things, turned out to be the best. If I can demonstrate that through a character, I feel like I've done something worthwhile.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Funnily enough, there's a short story in Handsome Devil anthology that nobody, anywhere, ever, has read, but I think it's probably the best short story I've ever written. “Tears for Lilu.” It's about an incubus, set in the Middle East. When the submission call went out, one of the requirements listed was that there couldn't be sexual assault or anything with misogynist tones, which wasn't a problem, but the very nature of the subject matter was very contradictory. That intrigued me. So it got me to thinking under what circumstances an incubus might find himself in, that didn't end in something as traumatic as rape, or demeaning the value of a woman in general when his whole life's existence is quite threatening to her, in that way. How in the world would that work? His very nature suggests a non-consensual act. It was a challenge, and I think the story acquitted itself surprisingly well.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
God, yes. I wish I could tell you about them, but see, I've forgotten already.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Well, since this is my debut novel, really, all I have to offer at the moment is Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell. I think it's as representative of my writing as can be, at the moment, but it was written in 2010. And I know I've expanded as a writer since then, and I'm going to want to show that, to stretch my legs in other directions, so to speak.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart, which is the follow up for Bring Me Flesh. But I'm also working on several other novels, always editing on-going works. I get anxious if I'm not always producing.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
I don't think I'm extroverted enough for this one. I'm more than happy to remain quiet and leave more questions unanswered than answered.
Find out more about Martin by following the links below
Vitus Adamson is falling apart. As a pre-deceased private investigator, he takes the prescription Atroxipine hourly to keep his undead body upright and functioning. Whenever he is injured, he seeks Niko, a bombshell mortician with bedroom eyes and a way with corpses, to piece him back together. Decomposition, however, is the least of his worries when two clients posing his most dangerous job yet appear at his door looking for their lost son.
Vitus is horrified to discover the photo of the couple's missing son is a picture-perfect reproduction of his long dead son. This leads him to question the events of his tormented past; he must face the possibility that the wife and child he believed he murdered ten years ago in a zombie-fugue have somehow survived . . . or is it just wishful thinking designed to pull him into an elaborate trap?
Unfolding like a classic film noir mixed with elements of a B-movie, Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell is an imaginative spin on the hard-boiled detective genre and a new twist on the zombie novel. In Vitus Adamson, you will find a protagonist you can care about and invest in as he takes you through his emotional journey of betrayal and quest for redemption.