Voltaire comes to Anthocon

Spencer Hill Press’s and Spence City’s lovely Kendra L. Saunders interviews the Gothic icon for Jason Harris Promotions.

Hello Voltaire!

I have to say, I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of meeting you this weekend at Anthocon in Portsmouth, N.H. I attended Anthocon last year, (which was actually its debut year), and had a blast. Your guest appearance at an event like this is going to be a really cool marriage of the macabre and über-fun, especially since you’ll be debuting the cover for your novel, Call of the Jersey Devil (Spence City, 2013).

So, to get everyone ready for Anthocon, I’d like to ask you a few quick questions.

Q: Your book, Call of the Jersey Devil, continues your long-standing jokes on Jersey. For the people that don’t know, what’s up with you and Jersey?

A: I was born in Cuba, but within a few years of emigrating to this country, my family had settled in New Jersey. At first, we lived in Newark, and I was the only “white” kid at my all black and Puerto Rican school, so I was in a fight every day for being different. When I was in third grade, we moved to the suburbs, and I went from being “white” to being the only “hispanic” kid (or “spic” as they called me) in an all-white neighborhood, again, because I guess I didn’t fit in. Furthermore, growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey from that point on, I was constantly ridiculed for being interested in art and music and stop-motion animation. I was perpetually bullied and called a “fag.” I finally ran away from New Jersey when I was 17 and went to New York City where I seemed to fit in just fine. My experience in New Jersey was that they don’t like anything that isn’t completely familiar and grotesquely mediocre. Suffice to say, if you’ve seen the MTV show Jersey Shore, let me tell you, that’s exactly how New Jersey really is!!!! I simply had to get out to keep my sanity.

Q: When I mentioned your name online recently, I heard a lot of happy cybersqueals from your fans. Happily, they come from all walks of life including bookstore clerks, steampunk fans, writers and folk lovers. They’re definitely excited about your upcoming novel. What would you say is the one thing about your novel that will most surprise your fans?

A: I’m not entirely sure the novel will surprise these nice people. I think that over the years, people who have followed my work have noticed a certain twisted sense of humor mixed with a poignant sense of pathos. I do believe there is a unique thread running through most of what I do. It’s simply my way of looking at the world. This novel is really, I think, the culmination of all of the things that makes my point of view, uniquely mine. So if they’ve enjoyed what I’ve done in the past, I think they will really appreciate this book. I do believe it’s my best work to date. If it tells you anything, there are parts that still make even me laugh out loud when I read them and tear up like a baby as well.

Q: Now, as a musician, you must have a pretty cool soundtrack for when you’re writing, right? What are a few of the songs or albums that you really enjoyed listening to while you wrote Call of the Jersey Devil?

A: Believe it or not, I feel most comfortable writing in noisy places. There is no place more productive for me than a busy cafe. Like most of my comic books, I wrote this novel at Yaffa Cafe in NYC between the hours of midnight and eight am. The music I wrote to was mostly the clanging of silverware, random conversations between transvestites and after hour club people and whatever CD the waiter chose to play on any given night.

Q: There’s something about the smell of coffee or the sound of strangers talking that inspires, that’s so true. Anthocon is a horror and [speculative fiction] convention, so I have to ask, what are your top three favorite horror movies? And how about horror novels?

A: That’s probably impossible to answer. There are about twenty films in my top ten! They are also not all “horror” films because I’m a fan of monsters, not genres. So I don’t tend to separate sci-fi, fantasy and horror if they have monsters in them. I just call them “genre” films or “monster movies.” If I had to name three favorites off of the top of my head, I’d say King Kong (1933), Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Ridley Scott’s Alien. As for novels, at the risk of alienating a lot of people, I will admit that I’m not an avid reader, so I can’t really say. It probably explains why most of my novel’s influences are horror movies from the 80s!

Q: I love that though! So many good authors are influenced by movies and music and other forms of arts than just books. Now, you’ve done a little bit of everything; stop-motion animation, music, books. What’s next on your agenda? World domination?

A: Believe it or not … acting! I’ve always wanted to do it and recently was cast in my first real role in a feature. It’s a horror film called Model Hunger, directed by the talented horror film actress, Debbie Rochon. I play an acerbic alcoholic (yes, I was typecast!). It comes out at some point in 2013. I hope to do much more of this. It was as much fun as I’d imagined!

Q: You’re appearing at Anthocon on Sunday. Will this be your first time in New Hampshire?

A: Nope! Last year, when I went on my “Black Unicorn Cabaret Tour,” I performed in Manchester, New Hampshire. That was my first area show.

Q: I’m pretty impressed by your wardrobe, gotta say. Were you visited by a goth fairy of great fashion sense or were you always just this cool?

A: You’re too kind! I’m not a fairy, though Neil Gaiman did describe me once as a “Gothic Elf Lord” which, of course, I loved! If it tells you anything, I was run out of New Jersey on a rail in 1984 because I was a “New Romantic” or “Goth”. So, the desire to dress up has been with me for a long, long time. I’m middle-aged now and putting on some pounds around the middle, so I no longer wear tights and dress like Adam Ant, but I still have a little dark glamour left in me!

Thank you so much for your time and we all look forward to seeing you at Anthocon, for your reading AND for your concert!

For more information about Anthocon, please visit: http://anthocon.com/

A: My pleasure entirely! And for those who would like to learn more about my comics, animation, music and toys, of course, they can always check out my official website at www.voltaire.net

Cheers! Voltaire

Kendra L. Saunders is the author of the magic realism novel Inanimate Objects and the upcoming dark comedy Death and Mr. Right. She is marketing coordinator for Spencer Hill Press and has conducted interviews for Steampunk Magazine and ipmnation.com. In her spare time, she likes to drink too much tea, read fashion magazines, attend steampunk conventions, daydream about boys with dark hair, listen to records on vinyl and try to travel back in time to the Jazz Age. Find her online at www.kendralsaunders.com

Excitment and Craziness at ConnectiCon 2012

Excitment and Craziness at ConnectiCon 2012

by Kendra L. Saunders

ConnectiCon has all of the rush, excitement and craziness of any of the major conventions, but it also provides a few much-needed lulls.

Carlos Ferro and Kendra L. Saunders at ConnectiCon 2012.

Carlos Ferro and Kendra L. Saunders at ConnectiCon 2012.

ConnectiCon 2012 boasted some fun and impressive guests, most notably Doug Walker, the Nostalgia Critic and Carlos Ferro (voice actor for Assassin’s Creed, Gears of War). The panel rooms were reasonable in size and there were enough genres represented to keep anyone entertained. Some of the most popular panels at this year’s convention were the ones centered around My Little Pony (I kid you not), a panel about famous bromances and the Steampunk Sex panel.

The Vagabonds and roadie, Kendra L. Saunders. Photo by Nick Presuto.

The Vagabonds and roadie, Kendra L. Saunders. Photo by Nick Presuto.

Now, walking around in full steampunk get-up with a popular steampunk group, The Vagabonds, means you’re going to be asked once or 10 times if you’re part of the Steampunk Sex panel. We were not part of it, and in fact, The Vagabonds had a panel scheduled at the same time. The Vagabonds’ crowd was a bit smaller for that particular panel, but I, as their ‘roadie’ and not a member of the actual group, could gauge things from the floor. The audience members were all incredibly entertaining people who kept the vibe in the room fun. Who says panels can’t be like a rock concert?

The dealer room was a bit slim and I did hear several complaints about that throughout the weekend. I’d intended to buy a wig at the convention, actually, but there weren’t any of the usual wig tables. There was an impressive market for Japanese foods, candy, and drinks, however, and those booths seemed especially crowded.

Carlos Ferro’s panel on Friday night was lively and enthusiastic, both on the part of the attendees and on the part of Carlos himself. He told us a few things he wasn’t supposed to (he’ll be a voice in the new Batman game and hinted at being a famous villain for it) and made a lot of jokes about his man crush on Michael Fassbender. He also mentioned that he prefers ConnectiCon to San Diego Comic Con. Carlos DJed the rave on Saturday night.

The Nostalgia Critic was so popular at the event that his presentation on Saturday caused outrageous lines of eager fans and headaches for the staff. The line had to be cut off at some point and a second presentation scheduled for the following day, which pushed the closing ceremonies back. The Nostalgia Critic was chipper and funny in person and when I mentioned to him that my brothers and I had gotten headaches and stomach-aches from watching his videos, he just smiled and said, “Always good to know I caused physical pain!” I saw male and female cosplayers of the Nostalgia Critic roaming the halls. How’s that for surreal!

Kendra L. Saunders with cosplay gender bender Avengers.

Kendra L. Saunders with cosplay gender bender Avengers.

Speaking of cosplaying, there was a ridiculously convincing Mr. T at ConnectiCon. If you told me that it was the real Mr. T just trolling all of us, I would believe you. Other standouts included a Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a woman dressed entirely as a piece of art, a cosplay group as most of the cast of Game of Thrones, Gumby and loads of great Doctor Who characters.

Kendra L. Saunders and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Kendra L. Saunders and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

The rave on Friday and Saturday night drew a lot of attention and went on well into the early hours of the morning. Cafeteria space for the event was plentiful (better than other conventions I’ve attended) and for the most part, I didn’t see any rudeness or bad behavior on the part of the staff, despite mumblings and mutterings I heard from other con-goers.

All in all, I suggest ConnectiCon for anyone thinking of attending a convention in the northeastern states. Make sure to book your room well in advance, though (at least 6 months prior), as rooms sell out very quickly. Bring your imagination, a sense of humor and plenty of water bottles,and I can almost assure you that you’ll have a great time.

About the author:

Kendra L. Saunders is the author of magic realism novel, Inanimate Objects, host of the quirky literary podcast, 13 1/2 Minutes, marketing coordinator for Spencer Hill Press, Jazz-Age/all things England enthusiast and sometimes-roadie for her friends, The Vagabonds. For more information about her, as well as helpful writing tips, visit www.kendralsaunders.com. The Vagabonds can be found at www.the-vagabonds.net. Nick Presuto can be found at http://pyrophotography.tumblr.com/.

Author Reading from Her Anthology this Sunday

Writer and NEHW member Trisha Wooldridge will be reading and signing at the Worcester Writers Collaborative event at the Tatnuck Bookseller on Sunday, Jan. 29.

Wooldridge will be reading from UnCONventional, an anthology that she edited with Kate Kaynak, at 2:30 p.m. The collection was published by Spencer Hill Press and was released on Jan. 15 at the Arisia convention in Boston. Wooldridge also has a story in the anthology. She will also be signing copies.

The WWC includes writers of many genres, all from around Central Massachusetts. Authors will be chatting with readers, signing books and reading excerpts from their works at the event, which runs from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Every WWC book bought at the event will be an entry into a raffle to win an all-inclusive photography package from AG Photography of Worcester (www.alanagordonphotography.com).

The Tatnuck Bookseller is located at 18 Lyman Street, Westborough, MA. Check out the Bookseller’s website, http://www.tatnuck.com/.

For more information about the WWC, check out its website, www.worcesterwriters.org.

If you can’t make the event, you can purchase UnCONventional from Amazon.

A Writer Experiences Arisia

This convention write-up by NEHW member, Kendra Saunders, for the Pure Textuality wesite.

A Writer Experiences Arisia

by Kendra Saunders

Arisia in Boston has a longstanding history for being the conference where geeks, nerds and steampunk enthusiasts can party and battle snowstorms. Arisia 2012 was remarkable in many ways, but most strikingly, because the skies overhead were blue and snow-free.

Your intrepid reporter (intrepid? No, that’s a lie. A bit overtired, over-excited and over-caffeinated), left snowy and icy New Hampshire on Friday morning with about three bags full of clothes, writing supplies, books and her well-travelled Loki action figure, and hit the road for southern New Hampshire. After connecting with a considerably more famous author, Elaine Isaak (The Singer’s Crown, The Bastard Queen), the journey continued southwards.

As soon as we hit the MA border, the ice and snow disappeared and the skies turned blue and the clouds fluffy, as if we had stumbled across a lovely summer afternoon. Well, maybe not summer, as the temperature was freezing and the winds quite raw.

The convention geared up late in the afternoon as participants threw their belongings in hotel rooms and rushed to get in line for registration. The lines were a bit long and crowded, and the whole matter was disorganized, but once registration was finished, the guest was free to wander at will. A Starbucks and bar/grill stood guard on either side of the hotel’s lobby, providing caffeine or beer, depending on your mood.

Costumes on Friday night were muted compared to the rest of the weekend, but even so, you might easily find yourself sipping coffee with Robin Hood, a Jedi and three young Victorian chaps. Bowler hats and goggles popped up more frequently as dinner-time loomed, and panels about role playing, writing, corset-design and gender gave way to several spectacles on the ground floor of the hotel. A disastrous but amusing showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show held my interest for ten minutes, but I soon joined the crowds of people that flooded out of the room due to DVD malfunctions (yes, really). Wandering down the hall from the movie room, I heard pounding Goth synths and investigated only to find a dark room of dancing witches, Vikings, teenagers, middle aged steampunk guys and a few curious passersby.

It must be said that if you will ever, ever, ever feel comfortable in the knowledge that you can be dressed in PJs and have curlers in your hair, and you won’t be the weirdest thing on the dancefloor… it’s probably at Arisia. I found myself dancing (badly) to songs by Lady Gaga and Blutengel. The DJ was phenomenal.

After passing out at 2:30 a.m. and waking up around 6 a.m., getting dressed in my diesel punk outfit (20s crossed with futuristic/steampunk inspired fashions) and wandering down into the hotel lobby, I discovered rather quickly just how creative the people who attend these conventions really are. Everywhere I looked, women strolled by in Victorian garb, giant hats, skimpy lace outfits and elaborate animal costumes. The men were dressed in a variety of fashions, though many of them seemed to stick close to the steampunk aesthetic. It was gorgeous. And most of the costumes were made by the people who wore them.

Early in the day, the women of Broad Universe hosted a book reading for women writers in the organization. I was among the readers, and after a bout of nerves, I managed to deliver a chapter of my book with all of the glee and grade-A ham that any of us frustrated actor/entertainers harbors inside. Everyone laughed when they were supposed to, clapped when they were supposed to. KT Pinto gave a spirited reading that had everyone nearly in tears with laughter.

Most of Saturday was dotted with various panels for attendees, but perhaps the greatest draw was the never-ending parade of fabulous costumes in the lobby. Batman posed for pictures, Sherlock Holmes wandered the halls, the 10th and 11th Doctor made multiple appearances, a Dalek drew gasps and Tony Stark smirked while he posed for pictures with hot women. The masquerade ball was allegedly one of the best in the history of Arisia and was talked about loudly for the rest of the weekend.

KT Pinto’s book-signing that evening culminated in one enthusiastic fan kneeling in front of the author’s table for a copy of her upcoming book (shhh!) A cancelled party sent hordes of too-sober nerds back into the lobby, most of them choosing to drink and mope and converse in grumbles about their party being cancelled. A few found solace in watching the football game. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like a bunch of men in Ren-fair clothes yelling at a TV screen and cheering on their favorite football team.

Another late night rolled into a somewhat later morning than the one before it. Sunday at Arisia boasted just as many costumes, but a bit less energy as the alcohol and lack of sleep caught up to the attendees.

Broad Universe and Spencer Hill Press hosted a hugely successful book launch for the Spencer Hill Press anthology, UnCONventional. A dragon cake was consumed, fans were able to get autographs from many of the anthology’s writers and much conversation floated around the crowded room.

Arisia attendees were fed a steady diet of somewhat appropriate food offerings—dry, stale bread, butter, a few bruised fruits, assorted cheeses and crackers and endless tea, coffee and hot chocolate. The food was laid out on multiple tables and left to be picked over by the sleepy maidens, grumpy young peasant children, stiff anime characters and confused men in crumpled business suits. I couldn’t help feeling that it was fitting and, for that reason and that reason alone, clever. So yes, I mostly lived off of stale loaves of bread, warm butter and cups of black tea… just like any good waylaid steampunk girl stuck in a great valley of dragons, street vendors and magicians.

And then more than once I hit up the bar/grill in the lobby for their delicious curry. If you stay at the Westin, try the curry. It’s surprisingly addictive, with or without the suggested French fries. Don’t mix it with Guinness though. I already did that for you, so I could warn you. Awfully kind of me, yes?

JA Starr was on hand to take lovely professional photos and he generously shared some of his honey mead with me. Delicious!

By Monday, most everyone was scurrying about to hug their new friends, say goodbye to old friends, get contact information or just figure out what the heck they did with their (keys, bag, purse, child, etc). I had fallen victim to a nasty bout of vertigo, thanks to the elevators and far too little sleep, so admittedly I was rather happy to see things winding down.

All in all, I suggest Arisia highly for fans of fantasy, fans of role-playing, costumers, steampunk enthusiasts, and writers in the Northeast. It’s a great chance to meet fans, make friends, meet heroes, dress up in your old ballgown (everyone has one, right?) or just gawk at the most creative people in the world (fans, of course!) While I didn’t find the panels to be quite as interesting as I was expecting them to be, the pure spectacle of the costumes and fandoms and vendors are enough to justify attending. And the conversations! Oh, you’ll have conversations with all sorts of people.

Included are pictures of the event and some of my favorite costumes from Arisia. Enjoy!

For more about Broad Universe, a world-wide organization that supports and promotes female writers, visit www.broaduniverse.org.

For more about Spencer Hill Press or UnCONventional, visit www.spencerhillpress.com.

For more about one of the incredible vendors at the show, visit www.etsy.com/shop/EmrysFynery.

For books by Tim Lieder visit http://www.amazon.com/Dybbuk-Press/lm/R1LB59CKVHK136.

For more information on me, visit my fancy-dancy, newly updated website, www.kendralsaunders.com