Shoot to Kill
Danny Hogan: I was very glad when you joined up with Pulp Press as I could see you giving a LGBT voice to our little firm. You hit us straight away with Let Me Die a Woman which features a transgendered person as one of the main characters. I am sure this is going to be considered a brave move in this supposedly enlightened age. Do you think that growing up in small town Ireland gave you the balls such a project would require?
Alan Kelly: I actually grew up in a village, about two miles outside a town. I guess I’d have to say yes and no: growing up in a small area you sort of sometimes feel that you’re under a microscope and every thing you do is amplified. I remember living in Dublin for two years and loving it and living in London for one and feeling a sort of disconnection that nearly drove me insane. My first night there I went to a pub in Camden alone and was smiling and cheery and trying to strike up a conversation with someone and the people looking through me. It was definitely harder as a teenager being gay in a small town – boys are pricks – but I never gave anyone the opportunity to walk all over me – ever, nor would I allow someone to do it now. As for Let Me Die a Woman, this was inspired primarily by women in horror and of course so many of my friends are either pre-op or post-op, male-to-female or female-to-male. I always felt more comfortable around trans people. And thank you, I hope my voice counts. With The Windowlicker Maker you again use revenge as the device for pushing the narrative and your character forward. Why is revenge something that interests you?
DH: A big part of the revenge thing for me is the consequence aspect of it and no so much the eye-for-eye part. I have been lucky, or unlucky enough to see a lot of violent street justice in my life. And one thing I learnt early was be careful who you fuck with because there may be repercussions. In fact it was a good education in cause and effect of your actions. But one thing I could never understand was the people who would go around messing with people, sometimes they’d get away with it. Sometimes they wouldn’t yet they still chanced it without considering how there actions affected others. When they got a clout they would always whinge. So on one level what I write is really cautionary tales for people who dick around. On another however, I also believe that in this day-and-age of such uncertainty, economic and political, and people need a bit of escapism. You know where the good come out winning and the wrong’uns get done. What is the kind of process you go through when you commence a writing project? What influences you? Do you plot map? And are there certain conditions that you prefer, like writing late at night, early in the morning, having the desk, laptop just so?
AK: Well, for Let Me Die a Woman I wrote it during the summer and really liked writing to a deadline. While editing the manuscript and freelancing like a bitch I started writing the book I am currently working on. Usually I prefer to write in the morning and try to get at least a thousand words done per day – which isn’t always easy. I do plan where I am going next, but I don’t always go there, and so far I am pleased with what I’ve got down. I live by myself, most of the time, and have a tiny room, which is more of a closet really. The book I’m writing now is very different from Let Me Die A Woman: weird, visceral and inspired by an investigative piece I wrote while studying on missing migrant children in Ireland – 300 missing children in five years and its low profile. I was horrified by it and completely disgusted nobody seemed to give a fuck. What do you think of representations of strong female characters in films, comics, literature and television?
DH: I think that most of the time it’s a bit hackneyed and narrow. All like Angelina Jolie types in leather catsuits doing martial arts and coming out with quips and one-liners like they’d been thought up in a hurry. I was always more interested in the kind of tomboy characters that are usually in a supporting roll of the story and bringing them out to the fore front. I think that this is pretty clear with the Jezebel character I write, and Eloise is like an older version of this type of character. Alan, it’s no secret that you’re a total horror head, can you remember when you first got into horror and what does that genre mean to you?
AK: I blame my older brother! I suppose a lot of my interest in the horror genre stems from watching films as a child like Driller Killer, Romero‘s Dead trilogy, the Hellraiser films. While most of my classmate’s childhood heroes were Rupert the Bear or Bosco, mine were Chucky and all the above demented psychos. Though it wasn’t just horror I enjoyed, I liked Peckinpah, Scorsese, Coppola, Bergman, Otto Preminger as well as Brian Yuzna, Mary Lambert, Greg Araki. I worked as a film critic for Film Ireland and GCN so had to know film, and I started reading quite early. I’ve always loved Frankenstein and The Lair of the White Worm, more so than Dracula actually. Roald Dahl was a particular favourite – The Witches is a book I was obsessed by. Of course, I read King, Lovecraft, Straub and Barker. I love Joseph D’Lacey, Sarah Pinborough, Dustin LaValley, Mary Goff, Neil Gaiman, Paul Kane, Marie O’Regan, Mark SaFranko and many others. I also love noir and hardboiled. It means more to me than my own mother, if I’m honest. People in horror I admire are Hannah Forman of Ax Wound, superbitchextraorinare and fabulous horror journalist Heidi Martinuzzi, Shannon Lark and The Chainsaw Mafia, Jovanka Vuckovic and pretty much everyone who are making changes in the horror genre. Can you tell me how you got into publishing, and how Pulp Press came into being?
DH: Having a love for writing means I have a love for books. While writing wasn’t paying I was determined to work with books in some way, shape or form as a day job. Try as I might I couldn’t get any work in any book shops but then one day I came across an add in the local paper for a publishing house looking for a marketing manager. The publishing house in question was Indepenpress Publishing who are a company that offers a wide variety of publishing options from POD, partnership and full traditional publishing. As marketing manager I was responsible for marketing and promoting the partnerships and full pub authors and their books. Knowing this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss I worked hard at the interview and they took me on. Working for Indepenpress gave me a true insight into the publishing industry and where it was going wrong. It occurred to me at the London Book Fair of 2008, that a way of getting people back into reading fiction in this day and age was to provide short, racy, satisfying stories that people could read restively quickly on the bus, train or a snatched hour with nice garish covers, like the 1950s pulps. Hence the idea of Pulp Press was born. I pitched the idea to Lynn Ashman the MD of Indepenpress Publishing who had kindly offered to give me a lift back to Brighton from the LBF and being a shrewd businesswoman and experienced publisher saw the potential in it straight away. Job’s a good’un. Alan, I believe you worked as a casting agent in the film game, is this something you’re still involved in?
AK: I’ve never worked as a casting agent – though I have done my fair share of AD, script supervision and extra work. I was one of the leads in Paul Ward’s Furcoat and No Knickers which premiered at the GAZE film festival last year and it was my first acting job – actually the first audition I ever went to – it was an incredible experience and Paul Ward done a fantastic job with a very little budget, the cast and crew where absolutely lovely and extremely talented people, Paul had a brilliant producer Maureen O’Connell (keep your eyes peeled for her, she is a superb actress) and the other lads on set put me at ease. Initially I auditioned for a small part but Paul called me after and said that the guy who was supposed to play Brian Jones got ill and would I be prepared to fill his boots. I jumped at the chance. I loved every minute of making the film but right now I don’t see myself going to auditions anytime soon. What are you writing now that you’ve finished The Windowlicker Maker?
DH: I’m working on a post apocalyptic chestnut featuring this new character Jezebel Misery St. Etienne. The first short story appears at the end of my new book The Windowlicker Maker. When the Jezebel story gets published it will mark the first time I am using a photo cover similar to the ones used on pulp books in the 70s. Tell me what you got planned next, Alan?
AK: What I’m writing now is a story which takes place in two different time-frames – the 80s and the late 50s – and is very much a horror novel. My main character is a gay fifteen year old boy and horror buff (surprise) that lives in a small village with his disabled brother and mother. An old cinema – or picture house – is reopened which doesn’t sit well with the former proprietor. I always thought Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked this Way Comes was magical and there are one or two nods to that in this. It’s difficult to explain the premise without giving too much of the plot away – lets just say there will be body horror, vicious bare-knuckle fights between women, another teenage boy who is a sadistic and sinister psychopath called Bill Gentle and my heroine is a young pregnant girl who gets swept up in the madness when Lee disappears. I really think gay characters are neglected in literature – other than Poppy Z Brite, Dennis Cooper, Scott Heim and more recently, the Irish writer Denis Kehoe. I’ve never felt satisfied or especially liked the gay characters I’ve encountered in any medium, they all seem a little cosy or friendly or campy or just too fucking nice. What ever happened to the glam, ghettoised waifs and thugs of Gore Vidal and John Rechy, those are the kind of characters who intrigue me – though the British Queer as Folk was excellent. So far the working title is The Widow’s Dark Theatre. Which I realise sounds like YA fiction, this it most certainly isn’t. What appealed to you about my submission, I nearly shit when you said you loved it?
DH: I liked the fact that you came up with some fucked up transgendered horror chestnut. Even though it was not at all what I was looking for, I liked the fact that you thought outside of the box yet come up with something we could surely use. Strong female character’s, pulpy feel, 80s slasher flavour: job’s a good’un. It really was like nothing I have ever read before and was awful fun getting the Indepenpress Publishing’s editing lot to go through and watch the looks on their faces. Alan, what are your opinions on eBooks and digital publishing?
AK: I honestly prefer to hold a hardcopy in my hands. I love bookstores and libraries and you just can’t get the same type of feeling from reading something off a computer or one of those dreadful Star Trek devices as you do when you’re holding a book in your hands. I don’t even have a mobile phone – I flung it away moons ago. I don’t ever see myself fully embracing digital publishing and I’ve never read an eBook. Not that I have anything against those who do.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Danny Hogan was born and raised in London and spent most of his younger days playing bass for punk band, Gundog, and running a stall on Camden Market. He has also lived in France, running English pubs in Paris of all things. He is the author of The Windowlicker Maker and Killer Tease and resides in Brighton with a blonde, and two fat rats.
Alan Kelly is a journalist and author of Let Me Die a Woman, published by Pulp Press. If he looks hungover, he probably is.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, May 1st, 2010.