A Conversation with Author Adam Cesare

By Jason Harris

 

b55f3206ed747f885cd18d60591387401. You have written a novel, novella, and a short story collection. What are you working on now?

Next up will be another full-length novel. That one will be from Samhain (they put out Video Night, as well) and it’s my take on the satanic cult subgenre. All the longer pieces I’ve written have all been set in specific periods (the 1980s, 1960s, etc.) I didn’t want to become known as the “throwback” horror guy, so The Summer Job is set in our time. The characters have iPhones. I’m all done with that one and right now I’m working on a novella for a to-be-named publisher. I’m super excited about both of these.

2. On Amazon, it has you credited with Bound by Jade (the Fourth Sam Truman Mystery). Is this true and were you involved with any of the other mysteries in the series? I only ask since you don’t have this book listed on your website.

There are a couple of posts about it on the site, but I think they’ve been pushed off the front page over the last few months. It should be on the website; I’m just the world’s worst webmaster, so it’s not up there. I’ll fix that.

The series was created by writer/publisher Ed Kurtz. Sam’s a disgraced P.I. who just happens to get the city’s strangest cases (the books are supernatural noirs). I didn’t write the first three, but they all share the same character. The series is something special and I’m very proud of my entry. They’re dirt cheap, so everyone should give the Sam Truman books a try.

My installment is a novella called Bound by Jade. It can stand on its own, but reading the whole series is the best way to go.Bound by Jade

3. You have written about movies in Tribesmen and Video Night. Would you say, you have been influenced by movies? What movies have influenced you?

Yeah. Even from a young age, movies were my everything. Not to get lame with the “write what you know” adage, but I use the world of film as a jumping off point in those books. Video Night is based on the phenomenon of watching movies, especially the social aspect of that, while Tribesmen is more about making movies and what goes in (and shouldn’t go in) to getting what you need on camera.

The Summer Job doesn’t explicitly connect to the world of film, but it is my attempt to write in the genre of folk horror. To the best of my understanding, folk horror is predominately a film term and it describes the subgenre that films like The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw and Kill List belong in. Those are all British films, and I am nowhere near British enough to try and write about the location, so mine’s a New England folk horror story. 91w2nxklemL__SL1500_

4. You were a film studies major in college. What made you decide on that degree?

I studied both English and Film. When you’re a film studies major (as opposed to a film production major) the two fields of study are actually very similar. They’re both a lot of reading, writing, and analytical thinking. That kind of stuff interests me and I think that being a critical consumer of media (no matter if it’s Re-animator or The Canterbury Tales) makes you a better writer.

5. What did you envision doing with your life with a Film Studies degree?

I went to grad school for a year and picked up a Masters in Education. So I’m qualified to teach, which is also something I find worthwhile/enriching.

6. Who are some of your favorite writers?

Oh boy. This is one of those questions I could spend all night on. For horror, let’s go with Aaron Dries, Sarah Langan, Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, Shane McKenzie, and Jeff Strand.

7. Who are you reading at the moment?

I’ve got Joe Hill’s latest, NOS4A2 almost finished. I’m right now in the process of choosing what goes next. I try to put my genre consumption on rotation, so since I’m just finishing reading something that’s horror I’ve got three different genres all vying for the title: N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon (fantasy, I think), James S.A. Corey’s Abaddon’s Gate (science fiction) and Duane Swiercynski’s third Charlie Hardie book, Point & Shoot (crime).

TribesmenCover8. You have a blurb from Jeff Strand for Tribesmen. How did you feel when you received that blurb? Did you seek him out for one?

Jeff and I had only met once very briefly before I asked him to take a look at the book, so I was really surprised how nice he was about the whole thing. His blurb is amazing and now that I’ve seen him a couple more times at conventions, he and his wife (author Lynne Hansen) are two of my favorite people.

9. Would you like to see Tribesmen or Video Night made into a movie?

Yes, please.

10. If they were made into a movie, who would you like to see direct it and why?

Some aspects of the books would probably have to change either way, but I like to think that they’re both pretty adaptation-friendly.

Lexi Alexander would be a good choice for Video Night, in my opinion. She knows how to work with actors and gore in equal measure as evidenced by the criminally underrated Punisher: War Zone.

The dynamic directing-duo of John Skipp and Andrew Kasch would be my choice for Tribesmen. They’ve done some incredible short work that’s both hilarious and disgusting. They would get the tone EXACTLY.

I mean. There are no films in the works or anything, so why don’t we throw P.T. Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow and [Martin] Scorsese in the running?

11. What made you stay in Boston after college?

I love it. It’s been my home for seven years. It’s a movie-loving town, for one thing. The Coolidge and the Brattle are two of the best theaters in the country and they’re both walking distance from me.

12. Are there any plans to put Bone Meal Broth out in paperback? What inspired that collection of work?

I had the rights back to a bunch of stories that had been previously published, so I picked out the best of them and put out a short (20,000 word) collection. I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be in paperback. It’s the only time I’ve self-published something and I really enjoyed the experience. Maybe in a few years I’ll bump up the word count by adding some stories to the roster and then find a publisher that would tangle with it.

13. What has your nonfiction work been about?

It’s all film essays. I’ve written guest posts for a few blogs and my articles have seen print in Paracinema Magazine. They’re amazing, by the way, if you haven’t read that magazine I highly recommend it.

14. Your work has been featured in Shroud and Fangoria. How did it feel being in Fangoria, a horror magazine that I think every person who is or has been into reading/watching horror has read?

That was just a quick book review I wrote freelance for them, but it got my name on the contributor page and I thought I would faint. For the whole month I was going to newsstands, thumbing to my page and giggling like a madman.

15. You had a blog, Brain Tremors. I love that name by the way. Why choose that name? Did the name come to you right away? Is there history behind the name?

Yeah, Brain Tremors. That was my old page, but I still use the banner over at www.adamcesare.com. I kind of knew what I wanted the insignia to look like, and what’s creepier than an involuntary shaking of the brain?

16. What would be your advice for wannabe writers?

Ha. I’m too low-level to be handing out advice. My advice would be to take writing advice from Joe Lansdale, as he hands it out occasionally on his Twitter/Facebook feed.

One thing that does bug me is the idea of an “aspiring” writer. There are a lot of people on twitter that label themselves that way. Fake it till you make it, guys and gals. There’s no room on the internet for low self-esteem, it’s too full of cat pictures and lackluster writing advice.

Readercon, My Favorite Speculative Convention

Readercon, My Favorite Speculative Convention

by Bracken MacLeod

This past weekend in Burlington, Massachusetts I attended Readercon, a conference as they describe it, devoted to “imaginative literature” — literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable works often called “slipstream.”

Bracken MacLeod and Lucien Soulban at Readercon 23.

This is one of my favorite speculative cons as it is devoted (like my other favorites, Necon and Anthocon) to literature–no cosplay, no gaming, and almost no media (there’s plenty of talk about movies in panels because movies can inform prose story-telling, but no movie panels). Although the conference is usually weighted a little more toward Sci-Fi and Fantasy than horror and slipstream, there are excellent horror writers in attendance like Gemma Files, Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas, to name only a few, and the guests of honor this year were dark fiction legends, Peter Straub and Caitlin Kiernan. Sadly, I will have to defer to other NEHW contributors for a recap of Mr. Straub’s contributions to the con as his panels and readings were concurrent with other panels I attended.1 Instead, let me give you a short recap of what were the high points from the panels I attended.

The dystopian fiction panel led by NEHW member Jack Haringa, “Through a Glass Dystopianly,” was an excellent deconstruction of the recent trend in YA literature to make everything The Hunger Games. I’m not being fair. There’s a lot of good YA (and adult) dystopian fiction out there. But there’s a lot of drek too. As a genre, Leah Bobet seemed to nail the intention of YA dys fic with her deliberate oversimplification of it as the literature of mom and dad (i.e., the repressive government) won’t let me have the car or stay out late, so I’m going to escape to the forest and drink and have sex as much as I want! Or if you prefer that idea to be unpacked, the idea being, that dys fic is a reasonably fertile ground for young readers to identify their own struggles with autonomy and authority by imagining themselves as potent agents struggling under the dystopian regime. When pressed on the issue of dystopia versus utopia versus post-apocalyptic setting, Haringa threw out my third favorite bon mot of the conference: “All science fiction is optimistic because it all assumes we have a future.”

Next on the list of favorites was the panel titled “Wet Dreams and Nightmares” about weird and transgressive erotica. This panel stayed blissfully distant from paranormal romance and actually addressed real erotica and transgressive sex in a mature and unflinching way. Would you expect anything different from a panel featuring Caitlin R. Kiernan? The give and take between Gemma Files and Kiernan regarding their distinct approaches to erotic body transformations and what they individually find sexy made this panel pure gold.

The panel on horror and the social compact (another one featuring Dear Leader Haringa) presented some interesting viewpoints on the scope of horror versus science fiction, wherein it was posited that it is actually very difficult to discuss horror in the context of a Hobbesian social contract. With a few exceptions (e.g., Soylent Green—which I’d say is both sci-fi and horror), most horror is about violation of trust and/or autonomy on a personal scale as opposed to a societal one.

This panel shared an interesting deconstructive quality with one on Sunday titled “Uncanny Taxonomies,” where the conclusion was also reached that taxonomies of speculative fiction (i.e., genres) weren’t all that helpful for anyone other than book marketers and possibly consumers. It was during this panel that Kiernan gave my second favorite line of the convention: “All [novels], by definition, are fantasy; they did not happen.”2

My second favorite session of the weekend was Dr. Laura Knight’s slideshow titled “Autopsy and Postmortem Primer for Writers,” which gave the audience a basic rundown of the process of a typical autopsy and human decomposition. The con organizers grossly underestimated the appeal of a dead body slideshow to fantasy and sci-fi (and a few horror) fans and about a quarter of the attendees to the session were left sitting on the floor or standing when all the seats filled up. One poor woman who was standing in the back of the hot room (possibly with her knees locked) fainted when Dr. Knight put up the slide of decompositional bloat and a little body degloving (I am sure the heat and having to stand were also contributing factors). Sadly, that attendee missed the next slide of the two people whose little yappy dogs had partially eaten their faces. (Cat lovers take note: Dr. Knight commented that in over 2,000 autopsies, she had yet to see a feline case of filiaphagia–but those nasty little dogs… they’ll turn on you in a minute.)

Finally, at the top of my list of favorite events at Readercon (unrelated to standing in a blacked out hotel bathroom staring at disintegrating atoms in a spinthariscope—look it up—and drunken yoga in the hotel lobby) was “A Story from Scratch.”

The basic conceit of the session (in several parts over three days) was that using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear will crowd source a story outline and write a short story to be professionally brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Sunday, the story would be read aloud by Swanwick and Bear accompanied by a slide show of the work that Cassidy and Moyer produced. Bear provided a very condensed version of her course on effective fiction writing and the small crowd of participants began throwing out ideas for the story. What eventually took shape was the sad tale of a Chinese restaurant owner whose wife has been taken hostage by the Yakuza (I know), and must find the ransom before her wife (it is Massachusetts after all) loses all of her fingers and her entire memory (somehow stolen with each successive finger chop).

When the call was made for volunteers to be photographed by the amazing Mr. Cassidy, of course I volunteered. Given my cuddly and welcoming appearance, I was immediately cast as one of the Yakuza gangsters. The short version of the rest of the story is that, as one could predict, this became another instance of “and then Bracken took his shirt off” at a con. Fortunately, this bout of semi-nudity led to Cassidy and Moyer making me look like the coolest fucking American Yakuza since Viggo Mortensen and Bear and Swanwick crafting a Philip K. Dick style story containing my single favorite line of the entire Con: “Tom and Bracken were evil men, but not brutal.” (As soon as the story, titled “Dismemberance,” and photos are posted online I’ll be sure to link to them.)

The bottom line is, if you have a broad taste in genre literature, you could do a lot worse than attend a Readercon, but you’re going to be hard pressed to do better.
Cheers!

1 I know. I know. Revoke my horror fan card if you must.
2  Other excellent lines came from Michael Swanwick: “Wincing equals good fiction,” and Elizabeth Bear, “The worst reaction a reader can have to your story is ‘Fuck you!’”