David Arganoff is a man of many hats. I have been lucky enough to ask him a few questions, however, I’m only going to be speaking to the David in the cool writer beanie and talking only about books and such. David is in fact so fascinating that he is the first fellow author I’ve interviewed that I will post a link to another interview at the end of this one so you can read more about this creative, dedicated force of nature. But for now…AWAKE Monkey Faced Demon!
Q. Let’s start at the beginning, what made you want to be a writer?
A. I have always loved the power of stories, and from a young age I wanted to make up my own Science Fiction. My first Sci-fi stories were composed before I could type. My mom and I read a series of Sci-fi Adventure novels by Issac Asimov called Lucky Starr. I begged her to get Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, because the cover was cool. She read all seven books to me. I wanted to make up my own Lucky Starr stories but Mom suggested I create my own character. So I dictated my first story to her and she typed on her old Smith Corona typewriter.
When I got a little older I discovered horror. I remember being in 7th grade and reading Stephen King's The Stand, the scope of the story and the terror of it was very real to me. Then I read Clive Barker, John Carpenter movies, they stimulated my imagination, and there was nothing else I ever wanted to be.
The ability to create a story that entertains and stimulates the imagination is pretty much the coolest job I can think of. I have a learning disability, and early in my adult life I talked myself out of trying. My Grammar was (and is) pretty awful. But I dedicated myself to the task, when I was about 27 years old to follow my first dream.
Ray Bradbury is correct about writing when he says the first million words are terrible, No matter how much rejection I faced I kept plugging away until my ideas and execution got better. It was long learning process but now I believe I am writer I dreamed of being when I was in middle school.
Q. Your novel The Vegan Revolution with Zombies is not only a well written zombie novel but it features one of the most realistic reasons behind the rising dead. How long did it take from the spark of idea to holding a copy in your hands?
A. Of the six novels I have written, Vegan Rev is the only one that didn't marinate in my gray matter for years. For example I first had the idea for Hunting the Moon Tribe during the second year of Clinton being in office. I saw Interview with a Vampire in the theater and walked out thinking, I could do better than that. I worked on it as a screenplay for several years, developed notes, outlines and did tons of research on Chinese mythology. The writing of the novel only took three months, but the various drafts and formats have had 15 years of work.
As for Vegan Revolution...With Zombies. Carlton Mellick approached me about doing a vegan zombie novel, it took me a few weeks of brainstorming, I chased a few other stupid ideas before I thought of the one that worked. Once I had the story and the setting, the character who works at a “with zombie” publishing house, it all came together quick. Pitched it to the Eraserhead team in February, and two months later I was writing. That only took about a month, and we spent the summer, putting it together. Filmed the trailer in august. We had the big release at the Portland Vegfest in September and sold out of books in 2 hours. From idea to Vegfest was about nine months.
Can't thank the Eraserhead crew enough, they really believed in this book, and pushed me out of my comfort zone to do it. I have written comedy short stories, but I never thought about doing a whole novel of satire, but I have fun and I'll do it again for sure. I am very proud of the book.
(Interviewer note: The trailer for the Vegan Revolution...with Zombies is incredibly awesome and very worth watching)
Q. Do you remember your first published story?
A. My partner Cari and I Co-wrote a vampire story called Addiction, that is still on the internet in a webzine (along side A story written by a young Cameron Pierce). It is a bloated over written story that contains some interesting ideas. Cari is a great writer and she has a hand written half finished experimental novel about a feminist super hero called Shrink, that is simply amazing, I hope one day she will finish it. She also wrote a great story that is the very limited hard to find Vault of Punk horror Anthology.
In many ways my first serious published work was a a chapbook called “The Gutter Limits” of horror and bizarro flash fiction that I co wrote with four friends under the name Booger Murphy. There are only about 100 of those out in the world, it pretty good stuff. Both Cari and I have stories in that book, I have a story in that called “He Gets Around,” about a serial killer Yard Gnome. I love that story. In a lot of ways I consider that my first published work.
Q. Cannibals or zombies? Why?
A. Cannibalism is not very vegan friendly for sure, but to be honest cannibalism doesn't seem any different or worse to me as meat-eating in general. I am turned off by all flesh-eating Bud in Day of the Dead,Ronald MacDonald or Leatherface it is all the same to me.
Zombies at least have no control over it, they can't help it. So I suppose I'll go with zombies.
Q. I’m a studious interviewer and checked out your blog before diddling this string of randomness I call and interview together. I see you got THREE very different novels coming ready this year. The first being Hunting the Moon Tribe. Can you tell us about it and when it will be available?
A. Very Soon! When I was kid in Indiana we had a horror host Sammy Terry who showed Horror movies on Fridays at 11:30. After Sammy Terry they would show Black Belt theater, so Friday nights would often go from Hammer to Shaw brothers movies. I would tape them and watch them back to back on Saturday mornings. I grew up a fan of both genres. I love Wuxia Pan movies which are basically chinese kungfu fantasy and I wanted to do my own take with monsters and vampire hunters. Really make the vampires intense and scary.
Hunting the Moon Tribe is vampire novel, but also a lot more. It's a heroes journey novel influenced Chinese mythology, and Kung fu movies. I am very proud of it because it is pure storytelling, and I don't think it is like anything else out there.
Q. The second, the awesomely titled Goddamn Killing Machines, seems to have an Apocalypse Now feel. Was the movie an influence?
A. That film was based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness and of course they were both an influence, but I would say World War II men on a mission movies (The Dirty Dozen, and Force 10 / Guns of Navarone) were a bigger influence.
It is the story of a group of military contractors in the 22nd century wanted for war crimes who are given a mission to kill an unidentified target on a hostile moon. Basically the whole ecosystem is hostile to human life. The target is somewhere along a river 11 times the length of the amazon.
There is another huge influence on the novel, but I think it gives to much away about the last third of the book. This is the most hardcore, brutal novel I have written it gets pretty ugly towards the end.
Q. Who said, “Smokey, you are entering a world of pain?”
A. Jackie Gleason, the honeymooners dude. BTW I saw Smokey and the Bandit 3 in the theater. My family had a Smokey and the Bandit 8-track we listened to on road trips in our wood paneled station wagon. No joke. I am not as old as that makes me sound.
(Interviewer note: Oh, shit, did I just quote Smokey and the Bandit? I was thinking Walter Sobchek from The Big Lewbowski but if it was also spoken in a movie with Burt Reyolds and his gorgeous mustache then you, sir, earned ten bonus points.)
Q. Six horror movies for an all-night movie marathon?
A. in order: Prince of Darkness, Hellraiser, Devil's Backbone, Chinese Ghost story, Susperia, and The Beyond.
Q. Typically, I ask all my interviewees how far they would make it through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. However the last vegan I interviewed, Jeremy C. Shipp, informed me chocolate held no sway of him and he alerted me to a race of plant based face painted midgets known as the Poompa Ploompas. So instead I ask you if you could get stuck inside any movie from your youth which would it be?
A. Chocolate and sweets have a sway over me, and for a vegan living in Portland is like living in Willie Wonkas. Read Stumptown vegans blog if you don't believe me.
To answer your question it would be Star Wars or Star Trek, I'm not sure I have what it takes to be a Jedi. In terms of Star Trek I would love to serve on the Enterprise. I would of course do everything I could to never beam down in a red shirt, that uniform would be in the laundry every time I pulled an away mission. I would also totally hang with Spock, Vegans should stick together.
I also would love to have been Indiana Jones when I was a kid and for the record I saw Raiders with my dad on opening day, and I think when the flying ghost turned into a skeleton is still one the things that most freaked me out ever. Close your eyes Marion! He knew to do that because he was a professor and book smart. Very cool.
Q. Your story ‘Punkupine Moshers of the Apocalypse’ is included in the new Bizzaro Starter Kit Purple. It just so happens Purple is my new favorite starter kit and due to the incredible quality and diversity of the stories I can’t even pick an absolute favorite. Can you?
A. For those who are not familiar with the starter kits I am in the third anthology of novellas by various Bizarro authors. I am super stoked to be in that collection, and love my novella which I have described as an epic fantasy meets 80's punk rock. As for a favorite, this is not hard, Cody Goodfellow is an old friend and one of my favorite authors. His novella Home wreckers is a great dystopian bizarro take on gender issues and has some excellent moments of looking at the differences between men and women.
Matt Revert, Jeff Burk, Cameron Pierce,Garret Cook, Athena Villaverde and lots more. The quality is very high and it works out to be $1 per author to buy. You can't lose if you like weird fiction.
(Interviewer note: All three Bizarro Starter Kits are fantastic reads. If you haven't read them yet check them out here.)
Q. You write in wide range of genres are there any you don’t see yourself exploring?
A. I will never write a musical, well I don't think I will. I think of myself as a horror writer, because that is what my childhood dream was to be. As an adult I feel a bit more kinship to the Bizarro community in many ways because of the DIY aspects, which is natural considering my punk rock and activist background. Like many authors I don't like to be limited by genre. I love horror and Science Fiction, but I also write stuff that to weird even for those genres. I can tell you this I don't see much point is telling a story unless it pushes my imagination. With horror that can be trying to stimulate some strong emotions, With Science Fiction I think it is about pushing the imagination beyond the the normal. Bizarro I think another step even further beyond.
The story has to interest me, and I have to believe I am the one one who can tell it. If those two parameters can be met I'll write. I'll write a horror western some day, I have a plan for an anti-war horror novel, I have kungfu fantasy for kids I'm working on, and several punk rock themed horror novels.
Q. Quick, name drop five Bizarro talents!
A. Eric Mays, D. Harlan Wilson, Gina Ranalli, Cameron Pierce and Bizarro Super fan Zoe Welch. Any serious fan of bizarro needs to know these names. I command thee to Google.
Q. In a brutal alternate reality the Political Machine has resurrected every former president and encased their re-animated zombie corpses in well armed cyborg bodies. The cyborg dead presidents have cloned Ted Nugent and formed an army of redneck archers. Only a handful stand against the legion of oppression…Dee Snider rises from the ashes of a nameless former metropolis, in full Twisted Sister gear, and spots Cyber Ronald Reagan stomping on a school house. He howls the chorus to ‘Street Justice’ and grabs the ex-presidents attention. In 1,000 words (give or take) describe the battle and the carnage!
Dee looked at his feet. The bodies of Jello and Zappa were pinned to the floor by arrows, The Nugent clone army approached marching and humming the riff to cat scratch fever. Dee looked back at the ruins. Disk Jockey, Musicland, and Tower records were just beyond the flames. The Regan-bots continued to beat on the school house, chanting “Conform!”
It looked hopeless. The Nuge clone army would be here soon and replace the Dead kenneys with Foreigner, WASP with Bad Company, Rap music with Foghat. Ice-T was right about Freedom of speech, and it was going down. All that stood between a PMRC apocalypse and wasteland of classic rock was Captain Howdy.
Dee snapped his fingers twice and Burn in hell starts, without the intro. The Regan-bot hears the commotion and turns with a scream. Dee spins threw the crowd of Nugent clones dropping them to the ground before they can raise their bows. The Regan-bot hits the ground running.
They meet on the field of battle, Regan-bot doesn't know what to make of a 6'5 blond haired man in drag and Indian war paint. It is just enough time for him to grab Ronnie by the throat.
“Well Ronnie, Your gonna burn in hell!”
AWESOME! Thank you, Mr. Agranoff for the killer interview and entertaining DEATHMATCH.
You can buy David's books here.
For an very in-depth interview with David clicky here.
David's blog-chock full of reviews, news, and interviews is located here.
Until the next time, have fun and stay scary, friends!