Friday, October 2, 2015

Author Interview: Louis Rakovich

I am lucky to do a Q & A with Louis Rakovich, author of The End of the Trail. If you haven't read my review yet, go here: The Dark Reviews.

Tell us about the book:

1)  What was your inspiration for The End of the Trail?
I began writing the story in November 2013, and at that point had already been toying with the idea for a couple of months, so now, almost two years later, it's hard to say. It started with the sick king and his child bride – a random image of fantastical medieval darkness – and from there the rest of the story developed slowly, from the setting, to the objective of the journey, and finally to the journey itself and the man undertaking it. I can't pinpoint a source of inspiration more particular than the general concept of the dark ages.

2)  Why a novelette and not a full novel?
 Originally, I set out to write a short story. It proved a bit heftier than that, and dragged on into questionable territory. I'm still not entirely sure that it's more a novelette than simply a long short story, but I do think that it ends when it should end and makes all the right stops along the way, so turning it into a novel was never an option. I do, however, plan to write more stories and novelettes set in the same world, so in that sense The End of the Trail might end up a part of a larger, novel-like work.

3)  You wrote a dark fantasy novelette. Is this a go to genre, favorite, or just the one you needed in order to tell the best story?
 I often write dark fiction with fantastical elements, but rarely bona fide dark fantasy. In this case, I think the medieval setting nudged the story in that direction. I wasn't particularly concerned with genre as I wrote it, but after the fact the label seemed to fit pretty well, although elements of magic realism and fairy tale horror are also present.

4)  The cover is beautiful and relates so much to the novel. I know you’re a cover artist as well as an author. What themes or ideas were you going for with this one, if any?
  Death, violence and snow.

5)  Most of the characters in the story were nameless (which was a great choice). Was there a reason for this?
 There were two reasons, one of which is very superficial – I can't stand most “fantasy names.” The other reason is that for the narrator, each person is a function somehow relating to himself. His wife, his brothers, his king, his queen, the witch he's looking for, the woman he finds.
6)  Where do you get your story ideas from?
I know that “from my head” is not the most satisfying answer to this question, but I'm afraid that it's the best I can offer. Naturally, I'm inspired by art, beauty, experiences, sights, anything under the sun that makes me pause for whatever reason, but when it comes to tangible ideas, they're usually the result of intentional brainstorming with the purpose of writing a story.

7)  What made you write about salt, snow, rumors, and deception?
 I wanted to write about a harsh world inhabited by gossipers and liars.

8)  I both loved and hated the ending. It was a perfect place to end, but at the same time I wanted to see what else would’ve been in store for the MC. Is there a specific reason you ended the story where you did?
I felt that it came to its natural end. It's a story of a man's physical and spiritual journey, guided by the basic question of “What do I want?” In the end the narrator abandons his romanticized (almost romantic, even) allegiance to his king, and instead chooses what he had in fact wanted from the start – comfort, books to read, and a woman who won't die young. Moreover, he loves her, to the point that the revelation of her lies and murderous actions doesn't shock him, but instead leads to a quiet shift of worldview. He's on her side now, against the king. He has found his place, the end of the trail. What happens next might be alluded to in another story set in this world, but in this story, there's nothing left to say.

9)  How much research did you do?
 Not much. Most of the information necessary for the world-building was compiled from things I had already learned before, one way or another. For instance, the part about the women gathering to prepare provisions for winter, is loosely based on a story my mother has told me about rural Russia. If I recall correctly, the most concrete bit of research I did for The End of the Trail was reading up on the weight of medieval swords. 

10)  The story had poetic language and great imagery. Did your chosen style emerge from the plot? If not, where does it come from?
I think the style did emerge, in part, from the plot. The historical, magical atmosphere definitely goes hand in hand with the language used to create it. But I would say that this probably explains about forty percent of it, while the rest is just, for lack of a better term, how I write. I think style and content are inseparable – at the end of the day, “how you wrote a sentence” and “what the sentence is” are the same thing. As a reader I like the attention to detail that results in beauty that is both conceptual and musical, and I try to aim for it as a writer, as well.  

Tell us about your writing background:

11)  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
 When I was eleven I spent the majority of my free time writing bad stories. Then I didn't write much for a year or so, and when I was thirteen I got back into it and the stories got a little better. I'm not sure when the realization formed, but I think it must have been during one of those two nonconsecutive years.  

12)  Why do you write?
  I find it incredibly fulfilling. There's nothing I enjoy creating more than a story. 

13)  When did you write your first story and how old were you?
 I think I was eight. I don't remember what it was about.  

14) What advice would you give to your younger self?
I'm rather pleased with the way my writing is going at the moment, and where it seems to be headed to, so I think I wouldn't say anything to my younger self, for fear of messing up the present by meddling with the past.

15)    What book or books have influenced you or your writing the most?
 Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Leaf Storm, and his countless magnificent short stories, as well as the short and long works of Truman Capote, particularly Other Voices, Other Rooms and Handcarved Coffins. There's an overwhelming mastery to their writing, which makes me eager to write and improve. 

16)  Do you outline or plot or do you wait to see where an idea takes you?
 I usually outline anything longer than flash fiction. But that doesn't mean I don't wait to see where the idea takes me, it's just that I break the idea down into two parts – the skeleton of the story, and the meat – and work on them separately. I work on the skeleton first, and here, I don't constrain my imagination, but I do retain the freedom to go back and change course if I see that I've ended up at a stupid or nonsensical place. Because this is just the outline. Once that is done, I start working on the meat – actually writing the story, the people, the details. Sometimes, and this metaphor kinda breaks down here, the meat might change the skeleton, but I still find it better to know where I'm going, even if I might change my mind, than to dive in head first with no preparation.  

17)  What is your favorite book? Or some of your favorite books? And why?
My favorite books are the same as the ones that have influenced me the most –  One Hundred Years of Solitude and Leaf Storm by Garcia Marquez, Other Voices, Other Rooms and Handcarved Coffins by Capote. I'd also add some short story collections to that list, mainly ones by Etgar Keret, Neil Gaiman, S.Y. Agnon and Edgar Allan Poe.  

Tell us more about your current and future endeavors:

18)    What are you working on at the moment?
I'm writing my first novel, which I've been working on for nearly three years and will finish soon, hopefully. You could say it's a psychological thriller with theological undertones.  

19)  What book/s are you reading at present?
  • The Floating Opera by John Barth 
  • The Golem by Gustav Meyrink, but more the former than the latter. 

20)  What are your ambitions for your writing career?
  Write things that make me proud and make a comfortable living off of it.

21)  What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
  I'm not very far from being an aspiring writer myself, so any advice I give should be taken with a bucketful of salt, but I think common sense would dictate the following:
Read a lot, write what you'd want to read, don't bother with trends, and finish what you start.

22)  Where can we find your books?
 Many of my short stories can be read online for free, and others can be purchased as part of anthologies or magazine print issues. To those who haven't read anything of mine, I'd recommend starting with Coming Home, a literary, psychological science fiction story published in Bartleby Snopes. For a complete list of my published stories, you can go to The End of the Trail is available as an ebook from most major ebook retailers.

23)  Any final thoughts for the readers?
  Thanks for reading the interview. I hope it has offered you some enjoyment. I@LouisRakovich. I would love to hear from you.
f you end up reading anything of mine, please feel free to tell me what you thought either through my website, or on Twitter at
I also want to thank you, R.M., for this interview, the thorough and insightful questions, and your very kind words about The End of the Trail – from the writing style, to the ending, to the cover art. Thank you!
It was a pleasure.

Louis Rakovich

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Author Interview: Adam Howe

Today, I am lucky to do a Q & A with Adam Howe, author of Black Cat Mojo. If you haven't read my review yet, go here: The Dark Reviews.

Tell us about the book:

1)  What was your inspiration for Black Cat Mojo?

Check out the story notes at the end of the book for the long version.  Short version?  ‘Weird news’ and ‘dumb crime’ articles.  I started writing these goofy crime/horror stories and something seemed to click.

2)  What made you combine these novelettes into a single book?
 The stories have an animal theme, and are unified by noir-ish characters, doomed by their pasts and their own bad decisions.  But for purely mercenary reasons, I required a certain word count for a print version of the book, and I wanted that print version on my shelf!

3)  Where did titles like, Jesus in a Dog’s Ass come from?
  There’s a popular slogan for a UK paint brand.  ‘Does exactly what it says it on the tin.’  I was writing about a dog’s ass.  There was no prettying that up.  Bottom line (no pun intended): it made me laugh.

4)  The cover is closely related to the stories inside the book. Was that the intention? And how did it come about?
  The design was my idea, and I was delighted with the end result.  It seemed to be a good way of referencing the stories and I felt the road (to hell) signs would be eye-catching.  The designers Inkubus did a great job with Black Cat Mojo, and my new book, Gator Bait.

5)   The first story was about a dwarf with a huge penis named Rummy. A washed-up actor with a debt to pay. Where did he come from?
 The inspiration for Rummy came from a hoax news article.  There’s a UK tabloid called the Daily Sport.  Our equivalent of the Weekly World News.  They wrote an article about the partially eaten remains of Gordon Ramsay’s porn dwarf lookalike (Percy Foster) being discovered in a badger sett… That fired off my imagination.  I just had to write about it.  I’m surprised Franzen didn’t beat me to it.

6)   Where do you get your story ideas from?
   Pop culture, mostly.

7)   What made you write about porn stars, trailer trash, junkies etc?
   Writers are advised to write what they know; I simply recalled my troubled past as a drug-addled, trailer-dwelling, adult performer… Of course, this was before I cleaned up my act and became an Englishman.  The videotapes still exist, I believe.  My porn name was ‘Noddy Whopper.’  True story. 

8)   Frank’s story was my personal favorite: Frank, the Snake, & the Snake. Besides the character coming from the idea of what happens to a mobster after he goes into hiding, was there a reason why he was the most ‘honest’ of all the characters? Did any of it stem from bad things happening to good people? Or am I reading too much into it?
   Yeah, you might be reading too much into that. Frank’s as much of a weasel as the rest of the characters, self-pitying and projecting blame.  If he seems more decent and honorable than the other characters, it’s only because they’re such utter shitbags… I’m glad you like that one.  I think that one might be my favourite, too.  That was my nod to Elmore Leonard… He’s probably rolling in his grave at that.

9)   How much research did you do?
 Depends on the project.  For these stories – apart from monitoring my Jack Russell terrier’s bowel movements, and a thorough (and ongoing) investigation into dwarf pornography – very little.

10)   I was wondering about the themes in the book, intentional or not intentional. Animals. Trailer trash. Men with mommy issues. Is there an overall connection to all these? Or is it supposed to be left to the reader to take away whatever they want to take away from these shorts?
 One of my beta readers said a psychoanalyst would have a field day with a story like “Of Badgers & Porn Dwarfs.”  But if I’m working out any issues, they’re so deeply repressed I don’t know about ‘em.  I was just having fun.

Tell us about your writing background:

11)  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
 As a kid.  I was a natural born liar, and got the crazy notion I could make a career out of it.  (‘Career’ remains to be seen.)  

12)  Why do you write?
   You’ve read my stuff – I need to get this sick shit out of my head!

13)   When did you write your first story and how old were you?
   Can’t remember exactly.  Recently my mum sent me something I wrote age 6 years old – illustrated, no less – about a bulletproof werewolf.  Sounds awesome, right?  Maybe I’ll polish and publish it.

14)  What advice would you give to your younger self?
 Not to waste so much time as a screenwriter – though I learned a lot of valuable lessons that serve me well as a prose writer.  And to quit drinking sooner.  It kills me to think of all the time I pissed away.

15)  What book or books have influenced you or your writing the most?
 Earliest influence: Stephen King. For the skinny on how my short story Jumper won Stephen King’s On Writing contest, and meeting the King, check out my guest blog at Adam Millard’s site Influences these days: mostly crime fiction.

16)    Do you outline or plot or do you wait to see where an idea takes you?
 Coming from a screenwriting background – which is all about structure – I always outline and plot, but I’m flexible within it, and allow my characters room to breathe, let them take me where they want.

17)   What is your favorite book? Or some of your favorite books? And why?
  Oh man, I can’t even begin to answer that…
  Stephen King’s On Writing.  I learnt so much from that book.
  I’m a huge fan of Joe Lansdale’s Best Of.  Such a varied collection. I only discovered  Joe in the last few years.  His work – in particular his humour, and his seamless  blending of genre – has been a huge influence on my current output.

Tell us more about your current and future endeavors:

18)  What are you working on at the moment?
   My new novella, Gator Bait, has just gone on sale.  Readers of Black Cat Mojo may be surprised at this lean, mean horror/noir.  Very dark!
   My publisher and I are currently doing the proof edit of my next novella collection, Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.  There’s only one Black Cat Mojo-style story (but it’s a good one).  The rest is Richard Laymon/Jack Ketchum-style dark and nasty.
   Right now I’m working on my first novel, One Tough Bastard: my love letter to 80s/90s action films.  It’s a “buddy” story about a washed-up action star and a talking chimpanzee fighting crime in Hollywood.

19)  What book/s are you reading at present?

20)  What are your ambitions for your writing career?
   My immediate ambition is to finish my novel, One Tough Bastard.
   Beyond that, I don’t want to say for fear of jinxing it.   

21)  What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
   Don’t give up, work your craft and be patient.

22)  Where can we find your books?
   All the regular online retailers.  Black Cat Mojo is available in eBook and print.  Gator Bait is available Kindle only.  Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet will be available 03/11/15 in eBook and print.
   Follow me on Goodreads and Twitter @Adam_G_Howe.
   And check out my page at the Comet Press site

23)  Any final thoughts for the readers?
   Think how cool it’s going to be, the day I win the Pulitzer (for a story about a donkey-dicked dwarf or a dog with diarrhea) you’ll be able to tell your friends: But of course I was reading Adam Howe back in his Black Cat Mojo days.

Adam Howe

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Watch Me Drown

I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada last summer. I haven't been in the state a year and yet, the journey toward my new home became the first chapter to my new novel. A prequel to Hear Me Scream. Here's a chapter one snippet:

The faded mountains in the distance, and the clouds looming above the green-yellow grass fooled no one. Baya Baez drove down the desolate highway aware of the hot sun’s mistreatment of the desert. It scolded and battered nature without recess. His old caravan was the only ground vehicle cruising down Utah’s vast landscape, the AC buzzing as often as the tires hissed from constant contact with burning pavement.

The novel takes place way before all the ugliness of Hear Me Scream. Before the world became the post-apocalyptic nightmare of the next novel. It's a tad longer and some of the characters from HMS make special appearances. However, this one does take place decades before the last novel and most of the characters are not born yet. I've been wanting to write this one for years...even before HMS. I always wanted to tell Joshua's story. With this novel, I got the chance to do this and more, like expanding on their world and adding some politics into the mix. I bring a new set of characters who have their own distinctive little issues. No one's perfect. So to sum up the premise, here it is:
     In a world still reeling from the aftereffects of multiple wars, an economic crash, and the FOY virus, human bareness also threatens to extinguish the remaining population.
     Baya Baez journeys to Las Vegas, Nevada looking to start a new life with his childhood companion, Zemi, and her companion, Lynx, a bobcat. They stumbled upon a man who quickly proves to be all sorts of trouble—a psychic like himself. Baya is sure this strange man found in the hot desert will be the death of him. 
     Liatris Lowell loses her job as a counseling psychologist to a schizophrenic terrorist. The patient has escaped the maximum security military bunker, and all fingers are pointed at her. She cannot explain how he fled or how she allowed him to do so. Her answers come in the form of an immensely rich doctor and his strange cure to global bareness. 
     Robbed of almost a decade of his life, Joshua Sorrow escapes into a present where he is either mankind’s last hope or their ultimate demise. No one believes he can travel through time or that the FOY virus is not finished ravaging the world or that the cure to bareness will bring forth an offspring capable of destroying the last of the human race. 
    Everyone takes Joshua’s claims as the ramblings of a clinically unsound man, and so he watches in anger as his world drowns.

I finished Watch Me Drown in December and I'm currently editing. And if you are wondering what inspired Hear Me Scream or the Sorrow Series, well, many things. Also, these sage words: