Ginger Nuts of Horror
Philip Fracassi is an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles.
His brand-new collection of stories, BEHOLD THE VOID, was published by JournalStone on March 10, 2017. He has a novella, FRAGILE DREAMS, that was released in November 2016, and a second novella, SACCULINA, was published in May 2017, both from JournalStone. He is published in several current and upcoming publications, including Strange Aeons, Lovecraft eZine, Ravenwood Quarterly and Dark Discoveries Magazine. See his completely bibliography here.
He has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and was the founder of Equator Books, a publishing house and rare, out-of-print bookstore in Venice, CA.
Prior to publishing, he spent seven years as a live music producer for House of Blues Entertainment, producing concert DVD’s for The Psychedelic Furs and Public Enemy and more than 3,000 live internet broadcasts with bands such as The Cure, Motley Crue and Depeche Mode. He also produced the first live streaming concert ever broadcast over the internet.
Philip currently works full-time in the film industry and on his writing. His screenplay credits include “Girl Missing,” distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment (2015) for Lifetime Television and “Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups,” distributed by Disney Home Entertainment (2012). Films in development include “Escape the Night,” “The Boys in the Valley,” “Gothic,” and “Vintage.” Visit his IMDB page for more on his film projects.
His debut horror novelettes, “ALTAR,” and “MOTHER” are currently available as individual Kindle eBooks via Amazon.com. (NOTE: Both of these stories are included in “Behold the Void”).
You can follow Philip on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@philipfracassi).
Read Tony Jones' review of Sacculina here
JB: I have read and enjoyed everything you have released so far, and count you among one of my closer friends in the business. We chat and talk shop regularly. I still find it extremely interesting that you balance two careers--both of them as a writer--but on wholly differing sides of the field. Horror and family films are about as opposite as you can get. Care to explain a little of how this works for you and how you keep from going insane?
PF: To be a working screenwriter, you have to be adaptable to the content, and you need to have a large cache of voices and character sensibilities in your head. An army of them. It primarily comes down to compartmentalization. It is hard for me to switch from one script to another, or from a script to a short story or novel, because it’s mentally jarring. So I try to work on one project at a time, one “tone” at a time. So today, it might be kids. Tomorrow, a screenplay. The day after, a horror story. If it’s kids, then my mind thinks like a 6-year-old. If it’s horror, well, my mind still thinks like a 6-year-old, but writes like a 40-year-old. What are the primal fears you have as a child? Because the bad news is whatever those deep-rooted fears are that you had growing up? Guess what – you still got ‘em. So I exploit that as best as I’m able. Whether it’s to make you laugh or make you cry, I’m preying on your childhood. I’m preying on your primal self.
JB: Your debut novel, The Egotist, while being what you tout as a "literary novel" and not horror is not without its moments of pitch black humor and often uncomfortable nastiness. The fictitious memoirs of a right bastard so to speak. How was that to write and do you think you'll venture back into the non-horror end of the pool?
PF: The Egotist was my first novel. And I’m very proud of it because, like a first-born who is a little slow and ungainly, it’s still the first, and there will always be that connection. That said, it was self-published, it sold a thousand copies, and now it’s out of print. For now anyway, I’m going to keep it there.
In the 90’s and early aughts I was all about literary stories and novels. I actually wrote three novels during that span. The Egotist, Don’t Let Them Get You Down, and Happy Holly. They’re all pretty good in their own way, and some day – who knows – they may see the light of day. With a serious rewrite first, of course.
In regards to future work, I’m all about the horror and genre spectrum. I want to play in that sandbox for a while. Noir, crime, horror, supertnatural thrillers… that’s my wheelhouse until the muse says differently. That said, the last few short stories I’ve written, although dark, could likely be classified as literary. Who knows? I don’t track it too closely… whatever comes, comes. Some editors are okay with that, and like seeing something a little bit different. Other editors want the same movie they just saw, and that’s fine, but to me it’s a bit boring. I’m always going to be pushing to do something different.
JB: I read Mother and Altar almost back to back and adored them both. I have also had the pleasure of reading in early stage, almost all of the stories that appear in Behold The Void. While your style has remained yours, I have noticed an almost surreal tone creeping into much of your more recent work. Is this a conscious effort on your part , to kind of up the weird?
PF: I don’t think of myself as a writer of the Weird. I think of myself as a horror writer. If you had to sub-classify it, I’d say I’m a writer of supernatural thrillers.
But like I said earlier, I try not to worry about classification. I write what feels good. What makes sense to me in the moment. Sometimes that means a creature-feature like SACCULINA, sometimes it means a more internal story like FRAGILE DREAMS, and sometimes, yeah, I like to break barriers a little bit. I wrote a story called ID, that is appearing in a Necronomicon anthology this year, that is a very non-traditional horror story, and could be considered somewhat deconstructionist. Other stories may dip into surrealism, but I’ll never forgo a linear plot. I’m here to entertain, not fill your time with what I call “nowhere prose.” I’m here to tell you a story.
But at the same time it’s important to push yourself. Lately I’ve been integrating layman's elements of noumenon according to Kant and playing a bit with deconstructionism as a tool versus as a form of critique or analysis. Trying to integrate an "unreliable author" element - sort of taking the unreliable narrator to a different level. Pecking at the fourth wall. I’ve been playing with adding layers of subtext without making the story too obtuse or abstract. A satisfying narrative with more going on beneath the surface if anyone ever cared enough to dig deeper, but hopefully those layers add a subconscious heft to the more obvious beats.
I was chatting with someone recently who had read MANDALA, the final story in BEHOLD THE VOID, and they were so entertained that they sort of flew right by a critical development of the finale. But that in no way impaired their enjoyment of the story, which is on its surface a pretty straight-forward thriller. But on a re-read, or critical read, there’s a hell of a lot more going on. All that pretensious writer-y stuff said, the next story might be about brain-eating ants. Period. I guess I like to keep all doors open.
JB: Who and what are some of your biggest influences on all of your writing--and who are some of the new crop that you're digging on? I ask because I love the answers to these sorts of questions in interviews I read, and usually end up grabbing a notepad and writing down a handful of folks I've never read.
PF: Grab your notepad and write the following: Laird Barron, Laird Barron, Laird Barron.
Brian Evenson is so talented it hurts. John Langan. Dennis Etchison. Ray Garton. Ralph Robert Moore. Stephen King. Cormac McCarthy. Rick Bass. Annie Proulx. Jeffrey Ford. Nathan Ballingrud. Ernest Hemingway. J.D. Salinger. William Faulkner. Raymond Chandler. Dashiel Hammett. Bentley Little. Flanner O’Connor. Richard Matheson. Robert McCammon. Frederick Exley. John Fante. Charles Bukowski. Graham Joyce. Influencers all.
New crop? Hard to say, I read a lot for research purposes, so I read very little from new authors. But of what I’ve read the last few years, I’d go with Christopher Slatsky, Michael Wehunt, Jonathan Raab, Rich Hawkins, Ted Grau. I enjoy Nick Cutter, S.P. Miskowski, Ronald Malfi, Joe Hill. Books by Bracken MacLeod, Tom Deady, Alan Baxter, Josh Malerman, Paul F. Olson have knocked me back on my heels. I could go on forever. There’s no shortage of great work if you know where to look. Ask me this question in a month and I’d have a whole new list. We readers are a blessed folk.
JB: Where do you stand in the battle lines: The horror is dead/Nobody buys or reads books anymore/Nepotism and support are synonymous people who dont share opinions cannot possibly be friends...so many quibbles and quarrels these days. Pick one and throw your stones.
PF: Haha… I prefer to avoid this sort of thing. Especially in social media. You know how people say you should never have a serious discussion or argument over email or text because it negates the context of inflection? I feel similarly when it comes to expressing views of importance on social media. You wanna have a beer and talk politics or the state of horror? I’m all in. You want to tweet or post on Facebook? Here’s a picture of my cat, my new book, and what I made for dinner. My dogs don’t fight. My dogs write.
JB: Where do you see yourself, in regard to your wiritng in the next five years. Considering that you've really kicked ass in the last year alone. I mean. In just under a year an a half, that Im aware of, you've kicked out three novellas, a collection and have a new novella that just dropped. That is pretty damned impressive.
PF: I’ve been lucky to find homes for the work, and fortunate to find publishers and editors willing to publish my stories. I’m not sure what the future holds. I have a few ideas about what I’d like to do, but other than one-off shorts, nothing under contract. I have some stories already sold for anthologies and magazines coming out in 2017, and I’m still writing new stories that I’d like to find homes for. But I’m also a screenwriter, so I have a few projects that are drawing deep breaths on that side of things that need my attention, and I have a couple novels that need my attention. Since signing on with an agent last year, my focus has shifted somewhat to writing a novel, and I have a big doorstop-type horror novel currently being shopped that I think will be a lot of fun. In the next five years, if I get a novel and a handful of stories into the market, maybe a 2nd collection at some point, I’d be thrilled.
JB: I ask this in every interview, because I'm a big old music nerd. Do you listen to anything while you write and if so, what?
PF: I can’t listen to music with lyrics. Way too distracting when trying to formulate a sentence of prose or a line of dialogue. I can’t listen to stuff that’s too sleepy, or too aggressive, because again, distracting. Rachmaninoff is my go-to. But depending on the mood of the story, I’ll put on Audrey Fall, Russian Circles, Explosions in the Sky, Seas of Years, Survive, U137, Red Sparowes… I also listen to a lot of Trent Reznor’s stuff. The soundtracks but also an album of NIN instrumentals he did called “Ghosts.” Other soundtracks that get play are Roque Banos’s “Evil Dead,” Disasterpeace’s “It Follows,” and Johann Johannsson’s “The Theory of Everything.” All this is on Spotify if interested.
JB: I want to first thank you for taking the time to bat around my questions and second let you know how much I enjoy your work. I can say I have enjoyed everything I have read.
PF: I appreciate the interview. I’m a big fan of Jim and the Ginger Nuts of Horror website. There are a lot of folks studying the genre right now – and sites like Ginger Nuts, This Is Horror, Smash Dragons, Shotgun Logic, Dark Musings, RisingShadow… I could go on forever, are all such great resources for fans of horror worldwide. It’s always staggering to me when someone wants to write a review of one of my books, or do an interview like this one. I’m just incredibly grateful. It sounds cliché, but I’m so humbled when readers buy my books, or post about them, or write and review them. The best thing I can do to show my appreciation is to keep working as hard as I can, write the best stuff I can, and keep the red meat coming. I don’t want readers to starve. I want them belly-full, gorged, with fresh blood on their faces. And hopefully a grin. Or, at worst, a grimace. Thanks for having me.
Philip Fracassi's work is available as follows:
The Egotist is available from Equator Books
Mother and Altar are both available from Dunhams Manor Press
Fragile Dreams, Behold The Void and Sacculina are all available from Journalstone Publishing
"SACCULINA is a smart, terrifying, and poignant tale of creeping menace. I devoured it in one frenzied sitting... this Fracassi guy is damn good." --Richard Chizmar, author of A Long December and co-author (with Stephen King) of Gwendy's Button Box
When Jim's big brother Jack is released from prison, the brothers - along with their broken father and Jack's menacing best friend - decide to charter an ocean fishing boat to celebrate Jack's new freedom.
Once the small crew is far out to sea, however, a mutant species rises from the deep abyssal darkness to terrorize the vessel and its occupants.
As the horror of their situation becomes clear, the small group must find a way to fend off the attack and somehow, someway, return to safety; but as the strange parasitic creatures overrun them, they must use more extreme - and deadly - measures to survive.