by Blu Gilliand
If you haven’t read something by Adam Cesare yet, it’s time you rectified that. Last year’s novel Video Night and the novella Tribesmen made it clear that Cesare’s is one of the most exciting new voices to hit horror in a while. In 2014 he’ll continue that momentum with a new horror novel, The Summer Job, and his first foray into pure crime fiction, The First One You Expect. In this month’s interview we talk with Cesare about these projects, horror movies, and why all those people who say video games rot your brain are just plain wrong.
HORROR WORLD: A couple of your previous books (Tribesmen and Video Night) were deeply rooted in your filmmaking/film loving background. Your most recent release, All Night Terror, continues that trend with its goal of capturing a horror movie marathon vibe. Is that cinematic influence something you consciously strive for, or is it just a natural part of your writing?
ADAM CESARE: It’s kind of both, probably. When I’m in the planning stages, if this topic gets picked and it’s film-centric, then that project’s going to turn out that way. I think my three film-ish books (Video Night, Tribesmen, and now All-Night Terror) all have very different focuses from each other, so it doesn’t worry me. I know my writing’s got tics, and I try to diminish that whenever possible, use the best voice for the story I’m telling, but at a certain level that’s unavoidable. And you wouldn’t want to avoid it entirely, I think.
All Night Terror is six short stories - three by you and three by Matt Serafini. How did this collaboration come about?
It’s a super geeky origin story, but: we were playing video games one day over Xbox Live and came up with the idea of a collaborative collection, something that was small and digital and would serve as kind of an inexpensive “starter pack” for our stuff (Matt also has a hardcore werewolf novel called Feral).
I love the way it turned out, so people should stop knocking video games. They can lead to good things.
Are the stories all standalone tales, or do they work together to form a bigger narrative?
All six stories stand alone, but what makes our collection a bit unique is that there’s also a wraparound story that is presented in little vignettes between the six shorter works. Matt and I both wrote half of that, but it feels like a cohesive story.
While we're talking about the impact movies have had on your work, it's important to note that sequels are a horror movie staple. Will we be seeing any sequels to your own novels?
Video Night II could be cool. I’d want it to have a WAY different feel from the first book, but still take place after the events from that one with some of the surviving characters. New location and a more evolved form of the creatures. But people have to want it for me to write it. If we can get everyone down with the first one, buying up copies, I’d love to do that.
Your second full-length novel, The Summer Job, is coming out in January from Samhain. What can you tell us about it?
Well we’ve been talking so much about my film influence, but this is a book where I deliberately tried to get away from that and challenged myself to mix up the format. It’s the story of a post-college girl named Claire who’s looking to make big changes in her life, so she takes a job at a hotel in Western Massachusetts - which turns out to be a poor decision, of course.
I like stories about transitional periods. Video Night was about high school kids staring down the barrel of college and The Summer Job is about what happens after the keg kicks and you have to put up or shutup about being an adult. I mean, it’s about crazy ass satanic cults too, but I guess it’s a macro/micro thing.
You've described the novel elsewhere as "folk horror" - how do you define "folk horror," and how does The Summer Job fit in?
The idea started out with much more of a Dennis Wheatly/Amicus/Tigon/Hammer-vibe than I think made it into the final product, but I’m a huge fan of that subgenre, which kind of goes hand in hand with the “satanic panic” period of lit and film.
There’s been a bit of a resurgence in it lately, thanks in no small part to Ben Wheatly’s amazing film Kill List, so I wanted to take my own crack at the subgenre. I think I ended up with something a lot more American than any of those books/films, but I guess I’m too much of a yank to pull it off. It ended up more Race with the Devil than Blood on Satan’s Claw, but that’s all in there.
You've also announced a new "Long Island noir" book coming next year from new publisher Broken River Books, The First One You Expect. Is a release date set for that one, and what can you tell us about it?
I don’t think there’s a firm release date for that one yet. (NOTE: Broken River Books is tentatively planning on a January 2014 release.) J David Osborne is launching this Broken River Books next month with five titles (all from great authors), and then I think he’s going to release books in waves after that. Mine will be in the second wave, but I’m unsure when that is.
The First One You Expect is definitely the darkest book, tonally, I’ve done so far. It’s about a guy who makes über-low-budget splatter movies with his friend. We get everything first person present tense and he’s kind of a depressing guy. A girl enters his life with an idea how they can raise some money for his next film and things get worse for him.
It may be a traditional setup when I put it like that, but I don’t think this is much like what crime fans will be expecting.
You've worked in noir before, albeit with supernatural elements - how different was it writing straight crime without the usual horror elements?
Yeah. Bound by Jade which is one of the Sam Truman mysteries. The big difference isn’t writing with or without the supernatural stuff, it’s that this is a much “truer” noir in the sense that there are no heroes. In the Sam books, he’s a drunk and loser, but he’s still a good guy, trying to do right. There’s nobody like that in The First One You Expect.
I wish more people would pick up Bound by Jade. I’m really proud of that book, but I think people are scared away by the fact that it’s number four in a series. You don’t need to read the other ones (but you’ll want to). It stands alone. And it’s two bucks.
Is this a new, permanent direction for your career, or will horror remain a part of your writing?
Get outta town with that question! Yeah. Horror forever. Or foreva. Or 4eva. I plan on taking weekend trips away, but I don’t think I’ll ever stray for very long, there are so many more subgenres within horror for me to work in.
What other genres would you like to tackle?
A year or so ago I actually pitched a sci-fi book called Metalhead to an agent. Sillier than your average spacebound epic, but still with big ideas, which is why I like reading science fiction. It was also not entirely abandoning my horror roots but still very much more space opera than any other genre. I read a lot of science fiction, so I thought I should put that reading to good use by writing in the genre.
The agent kind of liked it, I think, but I still haven’t gotten around to writing it, even the first three chapters and the pitch. Maybe I should do that when I’m done with the next thing.
You often review horror films on your blog (http://adamcesare.wordpress.com/) - what are some recent releases you'd recommend?
I hear good things about Toad Road, I’m catching a screening of that tomorrow night. Aside from the stuff I wrote up over the last handful of months (the Maniac remake, Sightseers, You’re Next), I’ve been spending most of my time with reissues and catalog releases. The companies that put out discs go crazy in October, so I’ve got a stack on my desk to get to right now (The Vincent Price Collection from Scream Factory, Night Train to Terror from Vinegar Syndrome and some more).
I also just recently watched Curse of Chucky, which is just about the best straight-to-video sequel I can think of, maybe only Wrong Turn 2 rivals it. Well worth checking that one out or buying the set that comes with all of them.
Any new projects we haven't covered that you can tease us with?
Shock Totem is going to be releasing my first limited edition hardcover in April (there will be digital and paperback versions as well). That book’s called Zero Lives Remaining. Here’s the official announcement with the synopsis: http://www.shocktotem.com/08/23/2013/announcing-zero-lives-remaining/
I’m really proud of that one and the release is going to be so cool.
Other than that I have a few collaborative projects that I’ve gotten to work with some great writers and I’m hard at work on my third full-length novel (that one will be Samhain, too).
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