Ivan, thanks for the interview today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me! I’m a part-time creative and a full-time woolgatherer from northern Illinois. I write, I speak, I act and I cook. When something interests me I grab it in my teeth and dig in until I’ve learned all I care to learn, or something else interesting comes along. I’m highly inspired by the natural world and landscapes, as well as interstitial arts.
‘Gentlemen Ghouls’ has had an interesting path. How did it proceed from conception to the final omnibus version that’s out now?
Such a long road, but a great experience.
Jennifer Brozek of Apocalypse Ink Productions set up an online magazine called The Edge of Propinquity years and years ago. She asked me to contribute a one-year, once-a-month serial of horror or dark fantasy. Those weren’t my usual genres but I wanted to be a part of this, so I wrote a 12-part story titled Vorare. (This was, by the by, prior to my discovery of the vore subculture, of which I’m still not a part.) *
*Dan sidebar: this is probably a good thing. Let’s just say, don’t make the mistake of Googling it as I did, and leave it at that.
I thought that would be the end of it, but the magazine kept going and Jennifer asked me to keep writing. Vorare lasted for three years before I set it aside. When Apocalypse Ink started up, they approached me about turning the series into a trilogy, but – between us all – what I’d written over three years really only condensed into a single book.
So, two more had to follow. It took longer than I expected, and I suspect longer than anyone involved would have liked, but I’ve learned so much. I’m so very grateful to everyone who’s been a part of this.
Your prose, particularly in the opening, “table-setting” portion of the book could almost be described as lush or sensual. This is more of an observation rather than a question. Kudos to your style selection, it fits the work quite well while tying into the growing sense of dread.
Thank you! Many readers praised the lushness of the first book, Famished: The Farm. We stripped some of the language down in Famished: The Commons, set in more prosaic New England; and that really drew some unexpected commentary from those same readers. I like to think I struck a mature balance between the two in Famished: The Ranch.
I also have to say, this is one of the more unique horror novels I’ve read in recent years. I’d compare it in some sense to “The Troop”, but what I like more about your work is that you focus more on telling the story rather than skipping from scene of body horror to the next. That’s not to say that it isn’t there, but it’s more subtle and not quite so over the top. Was there a point in which you said to yourself, this is a line I cannot cross? And if so – which direction did you choose?
Ooooo. Yes, a few times, I had certain scenes that impacted me strongly. I have a tendency to put myself in the shoes of the victims about whom I’m writing, to empathize more with them than with their tormentors. I think that sometimes puts the brakes on going all-out gonzo with the horrific quality. I prefer a quiet undertone throughout my terrible scenes, though there are obvious exceptions to that rule.
In one of the final scenes of the omnibus, my beta readers (who review and advise prior to publication) kept pushing me to go further. I had made something ugly and scary, but not truly horrific yet. After I think the third go-round, there was a unanimous request that I stop re-writing and get some fresh air, thank you very much.
I think I know what5 scene you’re referring to, and wow. It was pretty impactful, to say the least. Can’t imagine it being punched up more. While the ghouls aren’t necessary classical vampires, they share some of the same traits. There are also intimations toward other things that go bump in the night. How did folklore influence your plotting and story decisions?
Not much, to be honest. Which is funny, because it influences a lot of my non-horror work, and is one of my few lifelong interests. In Famished: the Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus, though, the majority of the background elements came from Goetic* magic or whole cloth out of my head. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. Readers may see some connections I’ve missed.
*Second Dan sidebar: not nearly as bad a Google as the first reference, but definitely spoileriffic. Search at your own risk, or hold off until you’ve finished reading. 😉
And there you have it. If your interest has been piqued over the last few days, and you enjoy reading way too late with all the lights on, give Gentleman Ghouls a shot.