Today, I’d like to welcome author Nick Mamatas to the blog. Nick is the author of the recent release Bullettime from ChiZine Publications, as well as four (and a half) previous novels, including The Damned Highway with Brian Keene, and Sensation. He recently coedited the Haunted Legends anthology with Ellen Datlow and The Future is Japanese with Masumi Washington. Nick’s a native New Yorker now living in California. You can find him at his website, on Facebook, and his blog.
Read on for more info on the great giveaway from ChiZine!
David Holbrook is a scrawny kid, the victim of bullies, and the neglected son of insane parents. David Holbrook is the Kallis Episkipos, a vicious murderer turned imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to Eris, the Hellenic goddess of discord. David Holbrook never killed anyone, and lives a lonely and luckless existence with his aging mother in a tumbledown New Jersey town. Caught between finger and trigger, David is given three chances to decide his fate as he is compelled to live and relive all his potential existences, guided only by the dark wisdom found in a bottle of cough syrup. From the author of the instant cult classic Move Under Ground comes a fantasy of blood, lust, destiny, school shootings, and the chance to change your future
Now, let’s hear from Nick. Welcome!
Give us the “elevator pitch” for your book
Ugh, elevator pitches! A horrid movieism that has crawled into the book trade for little reason. We don’t pitch books in elevators; we write query letters and have agents. But plenty of writers don’t know how to succinctly describe their books, or even know that people don’t want to hear more than a few sentences about their books, so I guess it serves some purpose. *Grin—This is Suzanne’s first snarl over this question…She would snarl at this question too, and perhaps refuse to answer it. Nick, however, does answer…*
Anyway: Nerdy high schooler Dave Holbrook has some problems—neglectful parents; a cough-syrup addiction; the attentions of Eris, the Greek goddess of discord; and the fact that he’s trapped beyond space and time and is compelled to look through the endless alternative universes in which he either did or did not shoot up his high school.
How’s that? *Awesome!*
Describe your favorite scene from the new book—and why is it your favorite?
I don’t even think in terms of scenes, really. The book is a whole thing unto itself, designed to be read in a single sitting. I suppose I do like an early scene in which Dave, bleeding after an attack by a bully, is interviewed by the school nurse and school police officer. He’s in a hydrocodone, so to represent his confusion I eliminated most of the speech tags in that three-way conversation. When the copy editor tried to insert some speech tags, I took them back out, and it’s the scene I read at most events.
What was the hardest scene to write?
I wrote the first 15,000 words in 2004 and sent them to my agent along with a synopsis—but not an elevator pitch!—and waited for the offers to roll in. Instead what happened was a spate of school shootings and gun violence that turned editorial enthusiasm into unanswered phone calls. Finally, in 2010, CZP acquired the book based on the sample, and that first scene I had to write after a six-year absence from the material—in the six years I had moved across the country twice, had been through a few relationships and had gotten married, finished graduate school, and entered the workaday office job world after twenty years of bohemian poverty—was the hardest.
Favorite book when you were a child.
Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario by Daniel Pinkwater. I also loved the first three Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Also, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, which I read, or tried to read, way too early in life. All of them kept me from taking genre too seriously.
Book you’ve faked reading.
Books my friends write.
Book you’re an evangelist for.
I must have purchased and given away seven or eight copies of Zod Wallop by William Browning Spencer—the White Wolf paperback—over the last few years. That’s a great anti-fantasy fantasy. I’m also a huge fan of Strange Toys by Patricia Geary, and I assign it to my creative writing students frequently.
Book you’ve bought for the cover.
Speaking of White Wolf, I have almost all the Borealis paperbacks from the 1990s because I loved their covers. The line heavily informs my own idea of dark/urban fantasy and horror generally.
Book that changed your life.
Probably Naked Lunch, which I read too early, as I said. I spent a lot of my teens and early 20s just reading postmodern theory and radical literature—a big book at the time for me was Literal Madness: Three Novels by Kathy Acker—and found my way back into genre fiction and Lovecraft, thanks to The Starry Wisdom, a truly avant anthology that really blew open to the doors to the potential of genre fiction to me. I suppose all my writing is a way to get the essence of these three books onto the same page.
Not a book, but the fiction selections in Omnimagazine, which I had a subscription to for a few years in the 1980s, were also essential. Twenty years later, I was thrilled to co-edit Haunted Legends with Ellen Datlow, who had seemingly picked out stories for me personally to read when I was a snot-nosed eleven-year-old twerp.
Favorite line from a book.
A story, not a book:
Like in Riot in Cell Block 11, when Neville Brand gets shot at by the prison guard with a Thompson, he yells:
“Look out Monty! They got a chopper! Back inside!”
What the Cahiers people heard was:
“Steady mon frere! Let us leave this place of wasted dreams.”
That’s from “French Scenes” by Howard Waldrop. I find myself thinking, and sometimes saying “Let us leave this place of wasted dreams” whenever I push back my chair to leave a restaurant at the end of a meal.
Book you most want to read again for the first time.
I never actually re-read, so I am perhaps not as anxious for that first-time experience as others, since I don’t have very many second-time experiences. Maybe My Work Is Not Yet Done by Thomas Ligotti? Or Ask the Dust by John Fante?
Most horrifying moment while reading a book.
A roach crawled over my foot and that made me drop my mass market paperback copy of Anthony Shriek by Jessica Amanda Salmonson in the toilet back when I was living in a ramshackle high-ceilinged mansion in the slums of Jersey City. I was pretty horrified all around at that.
What’s on your nightstand or TBR pile?
Books are all over the place.
Bathroom reading: Cosmpolis by Don DeLillo
Cell phone reading: When it All Comes Down To Dust by Barry Graham
Daily commute reading: Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max
Back-up commute reading: Pages From a Cold Islandby Frederick Exley
Airplane reading: Broken Piano for Presidentby Patrick Wensick
On deck (will it end up in the bathroom, or my bag?): Ritual in the Dark by Colin Wilson.
Lots of dudes there, eh? Better fix that after this cycle. Probably Caitlin Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl will be next.
Favorite book about books or writing.
When I teach, I only assign two books about writing. Samuel R. Delany’s Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews About Writing and Jack Cady’s The American Writer. For writers in the US, virtually everything else is superfluous. An honorable mention should go to Lance Olsen’s Rebel Yell, which was recently updated (but neither improved or ruined) and renamed Architectures of Possibility.
Want to win a copy of Bullettime or another ebook from the ChiZine Publications catalog? Your choice. One entry for comment (can you sum up your favorite book into a one-sentence elevator pitch? Me either.), another for blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet. Now…Go forth and comment!