Independent writer/editor William J. Grabowski is the author of 2 books and over 200 short stories, articles, interviews and reviews. Recent work (with John Kluge) is on Forbes.com, and in the National Public Radio-associated WIRELESS magazine. His 5-year stint as contributing editor with World Fantasy Award-winning THE HORROR SHOW earned him a nomination from SPWAO as best nonfiction writer. Currently he reviews books for UK print and eZine BEWARE THE DARK; is preparing a nonfiction book, BLACK LIGHT: PERSPECTIVES ON MYSTERIOUS PHENOMENA, for release in early 2014—as well as a darkly comic novella, JOHNNY FLASH (look for it on Smashwords in February). He enjoys Punk, dark music, and hot chiles.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I'm a writer/editor of dark fiction (and nonfiction), mixing literary aesthetics with horror, conspiracy theory, and thriller—with a surreal binder. I also do a lot of ghost-writing, and editing, of others' work. This latter got me onto Forbes.com! My career began back in the great 1980s with World Fantasy Award-winner THE HORROR SHOW magazine. I wrote book reviews and contributed interviews with Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Dennis Etchison, Elizabeth Massie, Dean R. Koontz, T.E.D. Klein, Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp & Craig Spector, and many others.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Well, as regards my work, all three can fairly be applied...but straight Horror would be the least applicable—although my novel THE UNTOLD contains scenes of cold, vicious mass slaughter. I'm more interested in awe and terror, like that evoked by the masters: McDowell, Ligotti, Campbell, Klein, Machen, Blackwood, James (Henry AND M.R.), Kiernan, Straub and a few others.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
See previous response for half of them! I'm an omnivorous reader, especially of so-called invisible literature: underground stuff (in the sense anything really can be that in the Internet Age) exploring espionage, spycraft, drugs, crime, fringe culture, etc. And I read a handful of “mainstream” writers: Mailer, Nabokov, Burroughs, Joyce, Calvino, Boyle, Celine, Djuna Barnes, Paul Bowles, and others. Mostly, though, I read nonfiction. Newer fiction makes me impatient...like an architect (I've said this elsewhere, but it holds) touring an unfamiliar building and noticing only its flaws. In Horror, there are no finer than the late Michael McDowell, and the still-living Thomas Ligotti...absolute masters. I wish I knew a way to help Ligotti feel better, without buffering his writing.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Last great is Dennis Lehane's SHUTTER ISLAND. I was disappointed by Annie Jacobsen's AREA 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base. 98% of the book was amazing—mind-blowing accounts from old test pilots of the SR-71 and U-2 spy planes, and terrifying revelations about atom-bomb tests and other secrets that'll make your flesh crawl. The author, sadly, went off the deep end when swallowing obvious psychological-ops disinformation about UFOs, the Roswell incident, etc., fed to her by unnamed sources.
How would you describe your writing style?
Evocative. Vivid. Hyper-sensual and hyper-visual, because I've learned the vital lesson of emotional engagement. Give readers sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste, and they have no choice but to enter your invented worlds—and enjoy the journey, no matter how dark. Was that said humbly enough?
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Yep. My very first for THE UNTOLD, from Poppy Z. Brite. Then a 5-star from a reviewer on Amazon.com. Reviews are simply opinions, I know, but when that opinion is intelligent and educated—bring it on, brotha!
What’s your favourite food?
Very hot Thai cuisine, especially anything involving peanut sauce, Thai bird chiles, ginger, lemon grass, and onions. Don't hold back on the rice.... I'm a skilled (and modest) cook, and have been a food freak since waaaay before the recent TV implosion of celeb chefs.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Low...Skinny Puppy...Mozart...Wagner...Nine Inch Nails...R.E.M....Klaus Schulze ...Hawkwind...Tangerine Dream...The Cure...Bauhaus...Ministry...Godflesh...Bad Religion...Queens of the Stone Age...Glenn Branca...Tomandandy...Claude Letessier....
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
Write with nouns and verbs. Omit needless words. Eschew obfuscation! Read Strunk and White's THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE like a bible.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Endings. I hate them. And struggling (in my ghost-writing/editing persona) with multiple deadlines—especially when operating 3-4 days on little sleep. But any fulltime writer knows this is reality. Hard work is real...glamor and luxury are horse-shit, no matter how much money you make. That is, if quality and integrity matter to you.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Hmmm... I've gotten smarter (as a writer) and sadder. Much more willing to brutally edit my own material. I don't struggle with language as much, and rarely need a dictionary or thesaurus. Frankly, if you don't know a certain word, you have no business using it. Less IS more.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Bring enough money to cover your own drinks. Other than that, take the craft seriously, and don't be afraid to explore the less-followed path. Read read read...write write write. Rinse and repeat.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Intelligence Operative Daniel L. Walker (who takes his last name from my best friend), because he appears fearless (and isn't) in the face of danger, and does what he has to—not because he cares, but because it's right.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Jimmy Voss from my longish short story, “The Apple-Howler.” A mean, narcissistic bastard who's intelligent enough to be better than he is—but chooses the path of least resistance.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
As Lucy Leitner said in her interview here, respect. You earn that, and the other two will find your door.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
A short story titled “Broken Symmetry,” which explores the effect of so-called paranormal events on the human emotions and psyche in a realistic—I think—manner. Some people are crippled because they can't “see” what they crave. What they crave, actually, is self-integration. And this is projected into the world and beyond, where they believe the unknown in one of its manifestions exists, and will come to give them salvation. Essentially, the religious impulse. Very complex problems involved in properly investigating anomalous phenomena, with very few intelligent, sensitive types who give a damn about the Damned. (A little Charles Fort pun there.)
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last, THE UNTOLD, explored elemental hauntings, i.e., spirits of the earth shaping themselves out of whatever stuff is available, and manifesting as our subconscious terrors, hopes, despairs, etc. And what a paramilitary black-ops project might do to exploit this phenomenon. My protagonist, Karl Heimdall, is caught in both worlds searching for an answer to the disappearance of his parents. My next book—novella, really—is a darkly comic story of a small town with a strange history, and the effects on it of an Internet leak claiming a deadly Cold War relic has been located there. It's called JOHNNY FLASH.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
Why is the English language being vandalized by “social” media?
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