Monday, January 4, 2010
The Black Glove interviews Wrath James White
Interview conducted by Nickolas Cook
1. You've got quite a background, earned a paycheck in a wide ranging line of professions. What drove you to become a writer?
I have always believed that wasted talent is the only truly unforgivable sin. Writing was the first thing I showed a genuine aptitude for. It was the first talent I ever received praise for. When I began reading horror and got hooked on Stephen king and Robert McCammon, I decided I would become a horror novelist. Even when I was working as a bouncer or fighting or acting or modeling or working construction my goal remained to someday write for a living.
2. You get into the heads of some pretty amoral and repulsive characters. What do you have to do to make that happen for you? And how does it effect you in your daily life?
There is no crime, however reprehensible, that I have not at one time imagined myself capable of. In order to write the type of characters that I write you have to suspend your moral judgment for a moment and imagine that you are that person, that villain. How would you justify your actions? How would you rationalize it? If you can't put your mind in that place then you cannot write a realistic antagonist. That's how writers wind up with cardboard villains that are just evil for the sake of being evil. I find that type of writing boring and a bit lazy. Nobody is just evil. Even Manson had his reasons.
Writing these type of characters doesn't affect me that much. It’s scary while I’m writing them and sometimes very uncomfortable. Living in the mind of a psycho or his victims for months at a time is no picnic. But it isn't like I didn't know there was horror in the world or that there were truly twisted and reprehensible people until I wrote about them.
If you watch the news long enough you will hear about things much worse than what I write, minus the supernatural elements. I write about it because it helps me to understand it and makes it less terrifying. A monster is no longer a monster once you have identified it, studied it, and given it a name. No one thinks of gorillas as monsters but there was a time when people did because they didn't understand them, most people had never seen one and knew nothing about them outside of wild tales. Once you understand them they aren't as terrifying. No one wakes up screaming in the middle of the night dreaming that a gorilla is coming for them.
3. With your new Leisure release, THE RESURRECTIONIST, you give us Dale McCarthy, a man who is obviously not like anyone else. What were trying to say with him? Was he meant to be wrapped in a moral/ethical message?
There is a lot going on with Dale McCarthy. Would God give immense power to someone who was evil? Is it evil to kill someone for your own enjoyment if you can resurrect them with no memory of their death? These were questions I wanted to explore. Then there were other questions I explored in the novel like the economic crises and how it was transforming neighborhoods and destroying marriages, crippling cities.
I also added commentary on the Catholic Church molestation scandals and the lasting affect that has had on some people. I crammed a lot in there and for once I think I did it without being too heavy-handed but without being so subtle that readers missed it entirely. I feel like I got this one right and that’s a great feeling.
4. You've collaborated with some of the brightest names in the genre, including Maurice Broaddus and Monica O'Rourke (will link and list titles here). How did your process differ for these collaborations?
It didn't differ much. Obviously, they each brought different strengths to the table but the process was pretty much the same. We get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and then we compensate for one another's weaknesses and emphasize their strengths. If one of us is weaker at dialogue or description or characterization or editing then the other one adds their expertise where it’s needed to make a better story. It requires letting go of your ego and letting someone else murder your darlings. That requires quite a bit of trust.
Any collaboration I participate in should turn out a product that is better than I could have achieved on my own and hopefully one that is better than my collaborator could have achieved on their own as well. I have learned so much from each of my collaborator's and grown as a writer as a result. I don't know if I would have grown as much as a writer without all of their help.
5. Your work has a certain, shall we say, physicality(?) to it. It's obvious that the flesh is a primary concern to you, but how do you approach the spiritual side of horror?
It depends on what you mean by spiritual? I don't believe in a spirit so that word has no meaning to me. I'm not sure anyone really knows what they mean by spiritual. If you mean the mind, emotions and intellect, then the answer is that I approach it by giving each character a life, a story, a personality and staying true to them. I make them as human as possible and not just pawns for the plot. I even change the plot if it doesn't work for my characters. Characters that I had originally created just to kill of wind up surviving and becoming major characters. Other characters that I thought would survive die quickly. Heroes become villains and villains become heroes. The personalities of the characters determine what happens to them in the story. If I create a dumb chAracter then no matter how much I might like him he's probably going to do something stupid that gets him or someone else killed. I want to show humanity in a true and honest way. Even though there may be an agenda behind some of my plots I still strive for emotional honesty.
6. With the ton of new releases coming our way within the next year, are you at all worried about your over saturation of the horror genre?
I always worry about that but I go through these spurts and my readers are sort of used to it. One year of mad productivity followed by one year of silence. I wrote a lot in 2009 but I published very little. Most of what I wrote this year will not come out until 2010. 2011 may be the same way. We'll see. If an idea comes to me I try not to sit on it for too long but I've got a lot of ideas for books and not all of them are within the genre. Some of them aren't even fiction. So 2011 will be interesting.
7. Has moving your work to a larger mass market publisher changed the way you write? Are you now consciously editing out scenes for fear of alienating potential readers?
Nope. I just try to write better each time. I don't worry about the content except that it should be more inventive, more original, more powerful, and more skillfully crafted each time. Readers will either like what I do or they won't. Trying to change the way I write to appeal to a larger audience just wouldn't work for me. Besides, the process of writing a novel from concept to completion to publication is so long that if I tried to cater to the trends of the market I would be lost because trends might change before my book is published. It’s better to just do what I do.
Even if I wrote a YA novel or a romance it would be written my way which doesn't necessarily mean violent and sexual but it wouldn't be Twilight or Harry Potter either. I’m not sure what that would look like. Perhaps we’ll find out one day.
8. Can you tell us a little about how you became involved with the most exciting new horror/thriller convention, KILLERCON?
I stuck my foot in my mouth on that one. I was complaining about why no one ever brought horror conventions to Las Vegas when Monica O'Rourke asked me why I didn't just throw one myself. She offered to help and a few other writers who were in earshot volunteered as well and Killercon was born or conceived rather.
9. What were some of the lessons you learned from the first KILLERCON convention?
More volunteers. Monica and I tried to do everything ourselves and it made things far more stressful than they needed to be.
10. What do hope people will walk away with from your brand of hard core, brutal fiction?
It depends on the book. There's a different message in each one. Of course some are just pure entertainment and that's cool too. I want readers to see that you can write without limits and still tell a good story. You can even be "literary". Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.
11. Last question: Next convention, can we get together and spar a little, and will you try not to knock out my teeth?
I break jaws and ribs. You can keep the teeth.
Poisoning Eros (2003) (with Monica J O'Rourke)
Teratologist (2003) (with Edward Lee)
The Book of a Thousand Sins (2005)
His Pain (2006)
Hero (2008) (with J F Gonzalez)
Population Zero (2008)
Orgy of Souls (2008) (with Maurice Broaddus)
Succulent Prey (2005, 2008)
The Resurrectionist (2009)
Yaccub's Curse, Necro Books (December 2009)
Vicious Romantic, Bandersnatch Books (February 2010)
The Resurrectionist (limited Edition), Cargo Cult (February 2010)
The Reaper, Cargo Cult (mid 2010)
Everyone Dies Famous In A Small Town, Thunderstorm Books (mid 2010)
Poisoning Eros books 1 and 2 ,(co-written with Monica O'Rourke,) Sideshow Press (late 2010)
Visit Wrath James White here