Ramona Mainstrom is one fantastic writer covering several genres and bringing forward a multitude of books. This interesting author gave me some of her time earlier this year. I gathered a list of questions and she was kind enough to answer them, below is the interaction. This is not a interview to skip over!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a full-time author and solo parent of two kids, ages 7 & 8. I enjoy acting and singing. I’m often dancing around the house and enjoy puttering around the garden with my neighbour.
What genre (s) do you write in?
Fantasy (Urban, Epic, and Dark), Thriller, and Horror.
For most, they began writing at a young age, taking writing more seriously later in life. Is this a sentiment that can apply to you? What was it like for you?
I was discouraged from writing or reading for pleasure, so becoming a writer wasn’t an option in my reality for a while. It was rough. I don’t know how to explain how having a part of your Self forbidden.
I was a story-teller as a child and as soon as I learned how to write words, I started writing stories. In high school, I wrote short stories, poems, scripts and started a few longer stories.
I didn’t consider writing as a career option until I was an adult and only because of peer pressure. Friends got a hold of some of my scenes and short stories and insisted I finish them. That’s how I started writing the Touch of Insanityseries, but Eyes of the Hunter was the first stand alone book I completed.
How much time do you spend writing?
No clue. I’m a bit of a workaholic, but I’m also a multi-tasker. So, I’ll be at my desk for hours, but I’ll be writing a book, answering messages, homeschooling my kids, doing groceries online, and editing a different book.
I just flow. If I start to stress about when, how long, or how many words, it kills the joy and creativity. I don’t put pressure on myself for deadlines or word counts. I need writing to be enjoyable. I need the words to flow naturally, so I let it happen when and how it wants while I go about taking care of the rest of my day.
What has been the most eye-opening part of publishing for you?
At the beginning, it was learning how traditional publishing works. It was very discouraging. Being an indie author taught me so much, but I think it also made me a better client once I was with a publisher.
Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.
Hands down; Santa in Sleigh Ride. Taking this epitome of kindness and generosity and giving him a hard edge made him more lovable to me. He’s avenging the benign creatures under his care who were injured or killed by dark forces. He’s racing, for not just his own life, but to preserve the beauty of Christmas and everyone who works with him.
Pitting him against the older, harsher Christmas representations in a death race let me show a dark and ruthless side of Santa. There’s a point in the story where his co-pilot, Jack Frost says, “People will get hurt” and Santa replies, “I’m counting on it.”
That gives me the chills. Every. Time. Santa is going to mess folk up to protect his people and keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He’s selling his soul for others to have that magic.
Do you ever write traits or characters inspired by people you know?
Always! It’s how I keep my characters real. Would so-and-so do this? How would they react? What’s their speech pattern like?
Where do your ideas come from?
Everything. Everywhere. There are a million stories in my world every day. People are lovely inspirations. Beautiful, complex, predictable yet chaotically unpredictable in all their messy glory.
Real life is a non-stop Plot Bunny that just keeps popping out babies. For years, I was told I should write about my life because it’s so wild. But, as fiction because no one would believe it really happened. So I’ve started using bits of my personal life into my stories. The Crossroad is actually a journal entry from my life. It was intended to be part of a non-fiction series, but . . . Well, a good paranormal story is fun to read.
And, my other big inspiration is dreams. My dreams and nightmares are detailed and emotion-filled. They stay with me long after I wake and often inspire my stories. The Greatest of Books is a story based on my dreams.
What is your current writing about?
I’m currently releasing the Touch of Insanityseries. It’s a 10 book fantasy series about a Half-Elf named Kharee, who was created to heal a goddess who is going mad and is spreading insanity via her connection to the people of the world, Besamie. Unfortunately, her parents withheld the ability for her to actually use her powers until they knew she’d grown up to be a decent, sane person.
The series follows Kharee as she discovers her powers, her mission, and her own truth. I’ve tried to keep the story as PG as possible, but she goes through some dark and gruesome experiences as she wades through the madness. For example, there are winged monsters called karpa that impregnate their prey and werewolves which are called Hydan Kin in their world, named after Hydan Speargood, the Elven Mage-Master who first contracted the magical disease. Oh, and of course a vampire lord, because no dark fantasy is complete without one.
I’ve been releasing a new book every 20th. Book 4, Each According Their Worth, releases on April 20th and I’m hoping to have a completed collection of all 10 books in one out in time for Christmas. If readers want to know when each book releases, they can sign up for Books2Read notifications .
It’s been very exciting to write and I’m so proud of the finish products.
Do you have any new series planned?
After the Touch of Insanityseries, Three Furies Press will be releasing the Harper series. It’s a paranormal thriller about a psychic named Hannah Harper who has PTSD. She’s very quirky. Edges frighten her, so everything in her home is rounded. Going out is challenging because there are edges everywhere. She gets dragged into an investigation of serial killings and finds the guy, but ends up as his next target. As the series progresses, they discover the killer from the first book isn’t the only threat they have to worry about. I’m very excited about this series because it sneaks from “okay this is a paranormal story” to “OhEmGee! This is mind-bending paranormal and I’m scared now”. Or, it will be if I do it right.
What has being signed to a publisher meant for you as a writer, since many self-publish nowadays?
It was surprisingly cathartic. I’d given up on the idea of being picked up by a publisher and was content self-publishing. I really respect the women running Three Furies Press, so when I saw they were accepting submission and I actually had something in a genre they publish, I just had to submit Gifted, the first book of the Harper series.
Reading that I’d been accepted . . . I cried. Happy, ugly cry because people I respect found value in my work.
What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading really interesting urban fantasy by Yvette Bostic, called Call of the Elements, which is the first book of herMagister’s Bane series. It’s really good.
Rosa Marchisella is a prolific author and the creator of the animated series, Zomb-Eh? Rosa also writes non-fiction under the name Rosa Arcade. She has written and co-authored over 50 publications, stories, screenplays, and scripts. Her poetry has been featured in anthologies and websites. Her other written works include 200+ articles, marketing and media projects, as well as promotional and educational tools.
I’ve credited this author in the past with helping me along my own career. Teaching me things that I should’ve known, but wasn’t aware. For example, until she got a hold of my own book, Maxwell Demon, I had no idea I was writing in the horror genre because the things I was writing didn’t scare me. Silly, I know. She gave me one of my earliest attempts of podcasting when I was a fresh-face.
Beyond all that she has helped me learn along the way she is a great writer and editor. She is usually a busy person, but she gave me some of her time and I got some answers to some things I had been wondering over the years.
For those that may not be familiar with you or your work, what can you tell us about yourself?
I’m the author of Heart Song and the Nepherium Novella Series and founder of Sunshine Editing.
You have been a part of the writing business for a long time now, how did that begin for you?
A very long time ago. I’ve always been fascinated with writing, but never really took it seriously until I was an adult and had children of my own, though I don’t write children’s books. Still, writing, in essence, has always been apart of me. Whether it’s poetry, songwriting, fan fic, or just my own imaginative musings, it’s engrained in my soul.
Is there anything about the business that gets you excited? Perhaps the convention going or meeting new people? Maybe just writing the story?
Always the new idea, first. That’s the most exciting of all. Then, the writing. That’s the delicious part. Finally, publishing. There’s just something about freeing my stories into the world for others to enjoy that gets my heart pumping a little harder.
I am always interested in how fellow parents manage work and family, what is the balancing act like for you? How do you find the time?
What balancing act? I don’t know of this. Please tell me more…
Seriously though, I have what about two to three hours in the very early morning I keep to myself for just writing. Lately, with all the virus stuff going around, that’s been a bit difficult, plus I wanted to revamp my brand and my business, so I took a little break off writing to get that finished. But mostly, the first few hours in the morning is what I use for the writing part. Once the kids are up, the show is over for the most part.
Being a mom of special needs kiddos, even older ones, still comes with its fair share of challenges, and one of them is being needed for EVERYTHING. I’m trying to teach them to be somewhat autonomous, but it has yet to really stick. For example, just responding to this interview, I have been interrupted THREE times. But it’s not always bad.
I just invested in desktop so that while the kids are working on their schoolwork (my youngest has to use my laptop), I can still get some work done and maximize the time I have available. Sometimes, that means I get a few extra hours to work, and so long as I have YouTube (I don’t get the obsession with Minecraft vids) or the Xbox running for them after their school stuff is done, I am at peace and can work.
Essentially, at the end of it all, it’s taking every moment I can and using it to my full advantage. It doesn’t always work the way I hope, but that’s okay. Flexibility is the key here. And always knowing I can come back when they are watching a show or playing a game helps as well.
Every author has their favorite program or must-have for their desk to help them either organize or just get in ‘the zone’. Do you have anything like that?
Yes, and no. It really depends on the mood. Here lately, I’ve been more productive with the peace of the mornings. But sometimes, I play either a favorite music list of Pandora or Spotify. Sometimes, I even have my favorite game playing in the background. GuildWars2 has incredible music, btw.
Coffee is definitely a must. I can’t do anything without it.
I’ve recently been using outlines to keep my stories on track and avoid the numerous rewrites to fill in plot holes that I used to do. So far so good. The program I use is Plottr, and once it’s finished on there, I import it to Word and copy and paste into my document for writing on a chapter by chapter basis. A lot of steps for sure, but it’s something that I recently learned really works for me.
I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head, even though I know there is more.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you had shelved? What helped it work better the second time around?
I’m glad you asked! Yes! I had a story called Dark Ones, and it had it’s own cover and had spent over 1 grand having it edited only to realize that the story was just NOT right. So, I shelved it and had recently come back to it. I outlined (using the program I mentioned before) and fixed any issues within the original story and now it’s a lot better than it was. Maybe not perfect, just yet. But so much better. I’m loving it even more! It’s even got a brand new title: Darkness Rising.
Are you writing anything new? Can you tell us about it?
Just Darkness Rising! Since my accident, I can’t focus enough to work on multiple projects anymore. So, that’s it. I can’t share an excerpt just yet, but I can tell you a little about it!
The story centers around Georgianna Peterson who knows demons exist, but no one believes her. On Halloween, she’s attacked by another demon and saved by her best friend and the handsome asshole, Detective Elijah Delapsus. From there, she’s thrust into a world of daemons, magical worlds, and uncovering a secret that changes everything, including discovering what she truly is.
In the indie-world there is a struggle for many on what marketing strategy works best with the conclusion being it differs from author to author. What has worked best for you?
I’ll let you know when I find out. So far, being organic has shown much more interest and progression than mass, spammy posts that I was taught by a fellow author and had lived by for years with little to no result. I think being truly connected and showing that I’m a real person is what the readers really crave.
When not writing and editing for authors is there anything you enjoy doing when you have downtime?
Playing video games like GuildWars2, Skyrim, and Fallout, or watching shows like The Blacklist, Little Big Lies, and Vikings. I love doing my own nails and experimenting with new designs and taking long bubble baths. Showing myself just a little bit of that attention keeps me focused and centered.
John Hartness is an award-winning author and publisher. As a brilliant and hard-working man I was surprised that he found the time to indulge my questions, but he did! This Fallstaff Books publisher has not only answered my questions, but gave me an inner look into his company and his life with every question he has answered for me. Known for his comedy horror books Bubba the Monster Hunter works and the Quincy Harker books his talents have brought him hardcore readerships and fans, even including well-known names.
I first learned of you as an author, but quickly learn thereafter you are the publisher at Falstaff. What came first for you? Where you an author first or a publisher that then continued as a writer?
I started out writing. I published my first novel, The Chosen, in 2009, followed by Hard Day’s Knight later that year. I self-published and worked with an indie press, Bell Bridge Books, until 2016, when I founded Falstaff Books. I still publish The Black Knight Chronicles through Bell Bridge, Tantor Audio publishes the audiobooks of several of my titles, and the rest come out currently through Falstaff. So I still write, something in the neighborhood of 3-4 novels and 4-6 novellas each year.
A shift is beginning within the indie world of more virtual attendance and appearances due to social distancing, how has it affected you? What are you doing different now, work wise, to keep moving forward?
At Falstaff, we typically appear at over twenty conventions in a year, so losing the entire spring and summer so far has been a big blow to our business. We’ve lost six conventions so far, and I expect more to follow. So I’ve shifted a lot of our focus to YouTube, creating author interview shows, doing video and audio readings, and as much other content as we can generate. I feel like YouTube and video is a largely unexplored space for authors, and the people who can plant their flag there first will have a marked advantage.
You have written so many things as a novelist and promoted so many of your Falstaff authors’ work, do you have anything new coming out? Any new work coming out of Falstaff?
I pretty much always have something new coming out. I released Snatched: Grandma Annie and the Cooter of Doom, a comedy horror parody novella on May 1. I’ll be releasing a new Bubba the Monster Hunter novella later in May. I have a new Black Knight Chronicles novel coming later this year, and there will be a new Quincy Harker novel coming in July.
As for Falstaff, we have new releases pretty much every week, if not multiple releases in a week. So people should pop over to our website at www.falstaffbooks.com and sign up for our newsletter to get notifications of all our new releases. Or they can join our Facebook Group, The Misfit Toys of Fiction.
One of the first things visitors can see when they go to your website is a really interesting quote; “Quincy Harker – demon killer, monster hunter & kin to Dracula. Yeah, this is who I want protecting the world! I love these books.” Whoopi Goldberg Academy Award Winner. I remember when you spoke about that happening on social media. How has life been after such a large endorsement? Has it changed at all?
It sells a few books when people see Whoopi’s name on the cover, and it makes for a great conversation starter, but nothing huge like a Netflix deal or anything. It’s very gratifying and surreal when someone like Whoopi, who I’ve grown up watching on stage and screen, reaches out to you out of the blue and endorses your work. That was a really cool moment.
On your blog you did something I have not seen done very much; you shared many chapters from a story entitled Raptor. What inspired you to share so much? What can you tell us about this story?
Raptor was a divergence from the norm for me. It is a military sci-fi novel, near-future, and the tone and style are pretty different from what I usually do. So I knew the book was a risk. So I put parts of it up on my blog to keep me accountable for continuing the book. Plus, I knew I wasn’t going to try to shop it around to other presses, and since I own the publishing company, I don’t have to worry about my publisher getting pissy about me sharing too much.
From YouTube to publishing and so much in between how did you get started? What was that moment like for you when you realized you were about to be published novelist?
I wrote my first novel just to see if I could write a novel, honestly. I’d been writing feature articles for websites for several years, and blogging, and I wanted to experiment with long-form storytelling. So I wrote a book. Then I put it in a drawer for about a year, and I studied the process of getting a book published. I still made plenty of mistakes, but since I self-published that book, there wasn’t really that moment of “I did it!” Now, when I sold The Black Knight Chronicles to Bell Bridge, that was pretty awesome. It was a vindication of the several years of hard work I’d put in up to that point, that someone saw something in me and my work that was worth the investment of time and effort.
Many writers are also heavy readers, when they have free time, to help them develop range and stay active with literature, is that something you do as well?
Of course. I read all the time. I joke that whatever I’m currently reading is “what’s on submission,” but that’s not true. I read all the time. I’m not as voracious as some folks, but I usually go through about a book every week. Writers who tell me they don’t read worry me. I don’t believe you can stay abreast of current trends and styles if you don’t read, and read current literature. How would you know that prologues are out of favor in urban fantasy right now if you don’t read urban fantasy? How would you know that head-hopping POVs is out of favor in high fantasy right now if the only high fantasy you read is 30+ years old? You have to read to stay current, and to stay creative.
One last question, a literary pilgrimage, ever thought of doing one?
No, it’s never occurred to me. I like to go places, but there’s no place that my books make me want to go, or that I feel like I need to go because Shakespeare wrote there, or because Anne Rice lived there. That’s cool if people get inspiration from trips like that, rock on. Take inspiration anywhere you can find it. Just not my thing personally.
I got the chance to interview the award-winning podcaster of Just Joshing. He happens to have a book coming out tomorrow called Cloud Diver. I welcome to the website Joshua Pantalleresco. Armed with a some questions. I asked him about podcasting, what fuels him, how he handles aspects of being an author, and more. I gained an insight into how his world.
Let’s begin with the writing side of your career. How did you get into the writing career?
By accident. I had an assignment in my 8th grade class. At the time I was in London, Ontario, Canada and there was this contest called the Lawson Literary Contest. I finished third writing that story and fell in love with the process. I’ve been making stuff up ever since.
Was writing a book something you always wanted to do or something that just began for you?
I wanted to be sure i could write a book, so that’s what I focused on in high school. I finished my first novel at 17.
As a published author, how do you handle reviews and criticism?
I cry in the corner at first. I mean, sometimes reviews hurt, especially if they are truth filled. Sometimes the criticism is constructive and brutal, and you have to take it in the chest. When it’s not constructive I just ignore it. I mean, if they care enough to try and tear you down, I kind of feel you already won.
Being that you’re a freelancer, is there any company or writer that you have wanted to work with, but haven’t gotten the chance yet?
In the world of comics I want to work with Beth Wagner on something someday. It almost happened. K. Lynn Smith, Colette Turner, Justin Shauf and Riley Rossmo are on my list too. Writing wise? Adam Dreece. I think we could create beautiful chaos together.
To you, want makes for a pleasant story?
When I’m invested in the characters. You can write about anything you want, but unless there is that connection to the story and the character, it doesn’t work. Once I buy in to the characters, I’m in for the long haul.
Is there anything you can share with us about your upcoming book?
I had a blast doing it. I’m writing about unicorns that fart rainbows and zombie monsters. I write about serious stuff too, but it’s an adventure. And Johnny, my main character, doesn’t like adventure one bit.
What helped keep you motivated throughout the creation of this story?
I had so much fun writing Johnny and Gunblade. Gunblade was a perfect straight woman for Johnny to roll off of. He’s such a coward that I just enjoyed figuring out what kind of trouble I could get him into.
Was the book inspired by anything?
Another accident. My life is filled with them. I was part of this writing group in Calgary called IFWA. IFWA does a monthly critique and I volunteered…without a story. So I wrote the first chapter in two days. Beyond that, I’m fascinated that we record absolutely everything to share to the world. It will paint a different history than the one we know. We suspect Tutankhamen was who he said he was. We don’t know for sure. With us it will be different. How will we be judged going forward?
You’re not only a writer but also a podcaster. When did podcasting enter your life?
By accident. I have been doing interviews for over twenty years. I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert J. Sawyer. Rob and I had a pretty good conversation that I was recording on the phone. When it was over, someone came up to Rob and asked what he was doing. He replied, “That he was being interviewed for my podcast.” I didn’t have a podcast at the time, but something clicked. I just shrugged and said why not, and started interviewing people for the podcast. I’m in my fifth year and just came out with my 363rd episode.
Between writing and podcasting, you must be a very busy person. What’s a typical day look like for you?
Depends. Right now my days are about working on material because my book is about to be launched. I usually wake up and look for things to pitch to. Once that is done, I write something. A column for First Comics, an assignment, or maybe another bit of my novel. In my evenings I’ll interview people for the podcast. Every other night, I work on the podcast for release. That’s pretty much my routine.
In the world of independent publishing, self, and hybrid we know of a great deal of authors that are considered ‘success stories’. They’re the ‘bigwigs’, but what they all are is very hardworking writers that haven’t stopped since they began. They’re the group that are making a living, successfully, as writers in the industry. One of these very inspirational people is named Armand Rosamilia.
This writer, for as long as I have known of him, hasn’t paused. Working hard online and offline continuing his career. Over these years he’s interviewed me many times, inviting me to show up regularly every year since I first heard of him. He’s captured powerful moments in my career. With all that he’s done not once had I gotten to interview him in return and that’s how this interview began.
Armand, you’ve interviewed me so many times I’m thrilled you’re letting me interview you this time. From what I know, you’re a bigwig in the indie world for your zombie fiction. How did that come about? Why zombies?
Bigwig? You’re going to make me blush. Writing about zombies started as me wanting to write a zombie story, just one story, and then move on to something else in horror. I wanted to write a lot of different things horror-related. I ended up writing a short story with a female lead, Darlene Bobich. Figured I was done. Then a publisher posted they were looking for an extreme zombie novella. The idea for Highway To Hell was born, and that eventually lead into the Dying Days series (with Darlene Bobich as the lead). It’s been nearly ten years, nine main books and just as many side books in the Dying Days world… and it really put me on the map for zombie fiction.
Are you working on anything new? Future plans?
Always working on something new. I have 14 open projects on my whiteboard right now. Crime thrillers. Horror. Contemporary fiction. Noir crime fiction. Nonfiction. All in various stages and many with deadlines I need to get to, so I can add more to the list.
What inspires you when you want to write? Is there anything specific that helps the words flow?
Yes. Fear. Fear of having to go back into retail management, which I did for over twenty years and hated every second of. I’m blessed to be going on my eighth year of writing full-time and making a living at this, but I haven’t gotten comfortable enough to not look over my shoulder at what could’ve been my life.
What’s difficult for you when it comes to writing?
Some days finding the time to actually write. There is so much promotion and learning about selling books and the business changes so frequently. I feel I have to keep up. I also have two podcasts and own the group they’re on, so that is a full-time job in itself. The writing itself is the easy part.
You’ve been podcasting for a long time, how did you get into that?
I was on AM and then FM radio for a couple of years. I saw the writing on the wall. People were listening to more podcasts. I felt I had more control over content and what I could do. I started Arm Cast Podcast in 2014 and have over 300 episodes so far. I interview cool authors (such as yourself!) and get to pick their brains. I’ve also been co-hosting The Mando Method Podcast with Chuck Buda for four years. We talk about writing and publishing.
What do you like most about podcasting and interviewing other people?
Selfishly, it’s all about me. I want to know the author’s tricks. How they deal with the changes in publishing. Who they like working with and who I should steer away from. I can also see where I stand in the specific genres by whether or not I have read them or whoever they are reading. It keeps me honest in that I have to stay on my game.
Most writers declare they cannot begin work without a cup of coffee, but for you what is it? What fuels your work machine? Any habits you’d like to share? Mediation, perhaps?
Umm… coffee. Lots and lots of coffee, in fact. I am a huge fan of three kinds: Dunkin’, Death Wish and Reapers Brew. I figured out I drink over 1,400 cups a year. Why did I figure this out? Because I had a nice burst of high-octane coffee in my system. It helps me to keep going and focus.
Your wife and you have a wonderful dynamic duo of creativity, how do you separate work and home life?
When work is over we might talk a bit about our jobs but it’s usually during dinner or dinner prep. We then don’t dwell on it, especially if either of us has had a bad day. With the quarantine, she’s now working from home. She’s set up in the bedroom and I have my office. We meet in the kitchen for lunch every day and catch up on what’s going on at work, and about six each night we stop working and spend the evening together without work stuff. She is my biggest supporter. She handles the money, the contracts and keeps me in line when I spend too much time doing non-writing things.
When you were younger did you want to become a writer or did this develop later on?
When I was twelve I started reading Dean Koontz. That was it for me. I wanted to become a writer and never looked back, although it took another thirty years for me to make enough to do this for a living. I’d love to someday meet Mr. Koontz, shake his hand and tell him what an inspiration he was to me and still is.
I really could ask you a million questions, but I’ll ask a very common interview question, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read. A lot. Not just in your genre, either. You can learn from reading in other genres, especially nonfiction. Watch the sentence structure. Characterization. All of it. I am not a fan of romance but when my wife watches Hallmark movies I follow along to see the beats in the story. I drive her nuts when I announce ‘end of act one’ or something like that. I can appreciate the writing in any genre and try to incorporate it into the way I look at writing and my work. If I only read horror books my work would suffer.
Searching for poetry of of a newer generation of gothic literature led me to the man I got to interview today. Upon reviewing his work I instantly fell in love with his style. Reminiscent of the great Edgar Allan Poe I was impressed and reached out. Connecting with Mr. Sheppard has been a very interesting and enlightening delight. We connected over music and over poetic style. I have learned recently he is a fan of my bold and raw emotional poetry, which thrilled me to know that someone has connected with my poetic work.
All that led to the recent reaching out to learn more about his work, his life, and his projects.
Let me start off with a quote from John Foster from your book Thirteen Nocturnes, in which the foreword begins with: “It takes guts to write and publish a book of poetry at this point in the history of the world.” I wholeheartedlyagreed when I read this portion and it left me with one question. At what point did you want to begin a poetry book?
William Blake and certain other experiences — not poetry, but experiences — have been a guide for me. Recent trauma started me out on this path. My poems sketch out a full cosmogony of pain.
Was the process difficult for you when it began?
It was difficult for me when it began. It’s still difficult for me. It feels like it will probably always be difficult, but there’s no other way I can imagine it would be. Life’s difficult, and it ends in death. In the meantime, we experience wonderful things, but they do all end in the grave. I think my writing reflects this inherent problem of our existence.
Your work is exquisite and reminiscent of Gothic literature; was that by design or the natural way it flows from you?
Thank you for those kind words. It’s both.
My favorite literary works tend to fall under a broadly gothic umbrella, and I suppose that style of writing flows from me naturally. But, as a caveat, I wouldn’t say every poem I’ve written is gothic. I try to choose a tone appropriate for what I want an individual poem to achieve.
Also, I’d consider myself to fall broadly within the domain of Southern Gothic literature. Readers and critics can ultimately decide for themselves. I love cosmic horror, and I love many contemporary “weird poets” (a term proudly brandished by folks wishing to imitate and perhaps build upon the poetry of Clark Ashton Smith, George Sterling, and the poets championed by Weird Tales authors about a century ago), but I’m probably only a fellow traveler, and a fan (but very much a fan), of weird poetry more than I am any sort of evangelist of that particular school of writing. There are many good poets writing in the weird poetry tradition nowadays, and some of them are the best living dark poets I know of. But my own upbringing has been ensconced in the Deep American South and its own literary traditions, and I would cite Flannery O’Connor, or Robert Penn Warren, or Cormac McCarthy, and then William Blake, as well as many French Symbolist and German Expressionist poets, as my antecedents, almost more than anyone from US pulp magazines from ca. 1870-1935. I’m doing my own thing, and have my own designs.
As an example, and as far as the Southern Gothic angle goes, my first, out of print, collection of poetry, DESTRUCTION: TEXT I, was spurred on by my grandmother’s death in Clarksville, Tennessee. She died from emphysema and end-stage COPD. She had run marathons, but she also refused to give up smoking to her last days in her 70s and early 80s. I’m bringing this up with reference to your question about whether the writing process has been difficult for me. In fact, it has been difficult, very difficult. My grandmother’s vices did her in. Marlboro Lite 100s, cartons of them, gold metallic and white cartons of them everywhere. She died painfully. David Letterman had an old joke that the best Christmas gift you could give someone in the Midwest was a carton of cigarettes and a set of tires. That’s my family in a nutshell, but way more Southern; just throw in a pecan pie, and you’d be their hero. Ventilators couldn’t keep my grandmother alive after decades of smoking. She suffocated to death. Her death upset me greatly.
That she was an enthusiastic supporter of my early writing made me realize I had to get to work on writing before I died, too. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have tried to compile any of my own poems, ever. My grandmother’s longstanding belief in my own literary worthiness impacted me greatly, and she was a catalyst. She was a great woman. She helped raise me when my dad abandoned my mom and I. She pushed me to write, and I still miss her.
What or where do you find inspiration for your poetry?
My inclinations, as a reader, have tended toward fellow Southern Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe, and New Englander HP Lovecraft, and European Dark Romanticist poetry, and the greatest living prose writer of the Gothic tradition, Thomas Ligotti. Gottfried Benn. This is all no secret. These things can’t help but influence you as a writer, if this is the sort of stuff you like to read. My book THIRTEEN NOCTURNES, which I recently learned was nominated for an Elgin Award, has some similar “Southern Gothic” roots. I wrote the lion’s share of Thirteen Nocturnes in a hotel room in Texas that I shared with my partner under terrible circumstances. To elaborate, in our hotel room, my partner had a black cat named Demon; and I consider Demon to be the co-author of Thirteen Nocturnes, by the way. Demon was a gorgeously sleek black cat who stayed up with me all night, next to me, while I tapped away on the keyboard to make Thirteen Nocturnes happen. I have photos of him standing on my keyboard, even, interrupting my writing to be petted. Demon recently passed away (March, 2020), and his death has profoundly affected me. Folks that are not ailurophiles might find this to be corny — but Demon’s recent death sent me into an incredibly pronounced state of depression. In fact, Demon’s death still upsets me. Demon deserves a whole book to himself. Demon was never “just a cat.”
In fact, the back story of Thirteen Nocturnes and its composition in that Texas hotel room gets even worse. The whole reason me and my partner were in the hotel room was because our house had flooded due to some busted plumbing. Tree roots had grown into the house’s pipes, it turns out. My partner’s elderly mother had been living with us; my partner’s mother was in her 70s and was seriously handicapped. She was not mobile. When the plumbing busted it resulting in the house flooding, and we all had to move out — humans, cats, and dogs. My partner’s mom went to Shreveport, Louisiana, where she had relatives. (Medcaid in Louisiana ended up being far more generous for her care than Medicaid in Texas — no surprise to me). My partner and I had to move into a hotel room in North Texas for two and half months. That’s when and where I wrote most of Thirteen Nocturnes, in that Texas hotel room with Demon, the cat.
My partner’s mother died shortly thereafter. She passed away in the nursing home in Shreveport, Louisiana while we were still living in the hotel, also from pulmonary problems. This is why Thirteen Nocturnes is dedicated, in part, to my partner’s mom. Demon, the black cat, also passed away, 18 months later. I thanked Demon for letting me be a part of his life as he passed away on a veterinary table in Dallas, Texas in March, 2020. My partner’s mother’s passing was a great influence on my writing then, and it still weighs heavy on my mind. Thirteen Nocturnes was born amid a backdrop of family cataclysm, displacement, instability, death. But that’s been most of my life.
As well, my daily struggles with “Chronic Depression – Severe – Recurrent,” to quote my own medical charts — that’s no doubt some sort of impetus or inspiration. Recently, I’ve grappled with seizures and convulsions and I had an MRI to see what’s going on in my brain. I’ve had visions and hallucinations. In the past I think poets called these kinds of things “reveries.” Otherwise, I wish I knew a clear answer to what definitely provides “eureka!” moments of inspiration. If I did know, I’d focus on it and I’d always go there to write endless poetry. I do remember driving in my old car under the Texas sun thinking to myself that I couldn’t wait for Summer to be over. “Summer is something to suffer through…” I thought. And I liked the consonance of that line that had just strangely popped up in my head. It just stuck with me. That became the origin of Nocturne No. 9: “Summer is something to suffer through / From May until September / Suffering Summer is what you do / Until comes grey November.” And it’s true in Texas — thanks to global warming, until November you can have temperatures in the 90s. But the rest of that poem takes a darker turn. Another poem might have been inspired by a dream, or a nightmare. And some of my poems have been inspired by surreal snatches of conversations I’ve overheard. “Nocturne No. 4” is another — it’s a very simple, short and sweet, rhyming, Gothic poem. I came up with that one after I discovered the world of Instagram poets and wanted to make a short and sweet dark poem to participate in that world. I wrote that poem in 2 minutes. And that poem is many folks’ favorite poem of mine!
So, I wish there was one answer. We’d all be successful poets if we knew what always inspired us to make something worthwhile. It’s not easy. It’s mysterious. You’re a poet, and I’d love to dialogue with you about your inspiration for poetry. My guess is each poem has a different backstory. For me it’s always elusive.
The literary world often feels, for readers, overly saturated, with the modern accessibility to so much and so many publishing now; what do you believe sets you apart from the rest?
That’s for readers to decide.
I know what I am trying to achieve as a writer. If there’s anything that sets me apart, it’s my intent, and I’m still trying to make my intent evident. I have a very specific goal and worldview; and within that all my poems fall. William Blake and certain other experiences — not poetry, but experiences — have been a guide for me. My poems sketch out a full cosmogony of pain. My next book, NINE BURNING VISIONS, will make this all more plainly evident.
The Bronte Sisters composed all their early poems so that they were situated in a certain parallel world, a “paracosm,” that they called Gondal. Likewise, my poems take place in a paracosm that maps onto our own existing universe, and which explains it; and I think my poems reveal a terrible under-dimension that exists and undergirds our own world. I’m taking poetic license to expand the definition of “paracosm,” in the sense the Bronte Sisters might have meant it, to call my world The Paracosm (capitalized), or The Grand Catallaxy, another term I’ll explain later. The extreme experiences of pain and trauma I’ve had — what Georges Bataille or Michel Foucualt might have called limit-experiences — this is the Universe (or, more specifically, The Bulk, within which string theory operates) within which all my poems exist. The Paracosm / The Grand Catallaxy maps onto our own world and crosses over or onto our own world, and helps explain it, especially the sheer trauma of existence and the misery that seems so prevalent. William Blake has been a guide for me. This may be my unique contribution to Western literature. I do feel I have something unique to contribute.
But this will all come out in the wash, in a few years to come. It’s for readers and critics to decide this.
You’ve written about music, art, and culture for companies like Post-Punk magazine and CVLT Nation; how has the experience been for you? Do you enjoy it?
I’ve always enjoyed music. Poetry and music are primal blood-relatives. Prosody borrows so many terms from the world of music theory, and the primal roots of Western poetry and the meter/metrics of poetry have to do with Greek dance and music. It’s not even a matter of “borrowing”; music and poetry are the same in their origins. Poetic forms like odes, sonnets, and ballads all borrow from music.
In fact, the stresses of words in Western prosody were supposed to coincide with footfalls of Greek dance; hence the poetic term “a metrical foot.” That is, when the foot was to rise in a primordial Greek dance, it is unstressed in the corresponding syllable; the foot falling down is where the heavy stress lay in the syllable. This barely matters any more, except maybe intuitively, to English speakers in 2020. Regional diction, slang, the normal development of the language over centuries, etc etc changes it all. I love music and always will, as most poets have. But the primal connection of music and poetry is still there. Schopenhauer and others said the only escape from worldly pain is the aesthetic contemplation of the sublime, such as what music offers, when one is thrown into a reverie because of the beauty on display. I largely agree with that, except I think limit-experiences also play a role: extremities of physical sensation (sex, pain) or intellectual experiences (contemplation of nature, space, theoretical physics). Poetry has the same effect on me as music. It’s a rare type of bliss.
Having said all this, I do still sometimes write about postpunk and punk and goth. I enjoy Killing Joke’s “Love Like Blood” like I enjoy Berlioz’ “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” or Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60” — “The Siege of Leningrad.” I think since the advent of Western pop music in the late 1940s or the 1950s, Killing Joke have done everything. They’re the first and last pop band since the 1970s, until now, as far as I am concerned! They’re all you need to know. They’ve mastered every style of post-1973 music. It doesn’t hurt that their singer, Jaz Coleman, is a genius.
Besides the writing part of your life, you’re the founder of two events in Texas, Wardance and Funeral Parade. What motivated you to start them? What can someone wanting to attend expect?
Wardance in Dallas was obviously named after the Killing Joke song of the same name. Funeral Parade, in Austin, Texas, I named after my love of that release (the “Funeral Parade” EP) by the old 80s cult UK deathrock band Part 1. Funeral Parade, as an event, is now on indefinite hiatus. Wardance is now a “Wardance presents” thing. My focus now is the monthly Ceremony club night at The Nines in Deep Ellum in Dallas. Since the Covid-19 lockdown, this has all been thrown awry. I still write for Post-punk.com. My focus is now mostly on poetry and writing.
With all that you have going on and all that you’re doing, what does a typical day look like for you? How do you keep motivated?
There’s no typical day for me. Most of my days are spent dealing with therapists, psychiatrists, or trying to read and write. Recently I’ve been treated for seizures, so my typical day has changed. I’ve been undergoing Electro-Convulsive Therapy at UT Southwestern, so that has changed my routine. Ask me this question 3 months from now, and things will have changed again. I’m hoping the ECT therapy will make me more functional.
Is there anything you’d like to say? Anything you’d want to promote?
Be on the lookout for Nine Burning Visions, my follow up to Thirteen Nocturnes, soon. I have created a cosmogony — The Paracosm/The Grand Catallaxy — within which everything falls, and which maps onto our own world, although it is in many ways separate. My poems sketch out a full cosmogony of pain. In Nine Burning Visions it’ll be fleshed out in the context of a suite of interconnected poems. Go to http://oliversheppard.net to keep up to date.
Musically, check out http://ceremonydallas.com to see what I’m up to with musical events. I’m doing some things with my friends in the band Rosegarden Funeral Party and a few DJ friends (Per Nilsson of Awen, Puncture, and a dj at Dallas’s The Church) there. We may be doing some livestreaming stuff soon.
Throughout my life various people told me I should be a writer, but I was also drawn to art and that was the direction my life took for many years. I married a music teacher and decided to become a teacher myself, and the logical choice was art. I taught that for several years. I finally gave it up, but I didn’t give up my love for art. Now I have my own home-based business called L’Artista bella. I consider myself a portrait artist, but I’ve been branching out more, trying to teach myself new techniques, to grow as an artist.
I never lost my interest in writing, though. It was just put on the back burner for a while because life happened. To say I thought I always had a book in me sounds cliché, but that’s how I finally became a writer. I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal and many books I enjoy reading are paranormal, so I began writing in that genre. I’ve always had vivid dreams and I like to analyze them. I had one that was so strange I couldn’t get it off my mind so I wrote it down. It finally led me to the idea for my first novel, “Keys Of Childish Scrawl.” The book wasn’t born, though, for several years.
I finally decided to sit down one day a few years ago and start writing that book I’d thought about for so long. It ended up taking a totally different direction than what I first envisioned, but I believe it turned out the way it was meant to be. I also included many of my own life experiences in it. For instance, one day while driving home from work in the hills, I got caught in a freak snow storm. I didn’t have experience driving in those weather conditions, so to say I was nervous is an understatement. While in a deserted area, I came upon a snow owl perched on a fence post, and it was watching me as though it was waiting for me. We made eye contact as I drove by and the scene was surreal. It looked like a ghost in the snow. That white owl was included in my book as an important part of the story. When I began writing my book, I didn’t think about having it published. I just wanted to show myself that I could write one. As it developed, I began to think seriously about having it published, and by the time I finished, I was determined to do that.
Publishing can be a long drawn out process, and sometimes people go through many publishers before their work is accepted. Some people are never published unless they self- publish, and even that never happens for some. I feel my experience isn’t typical and I feel very blessed. On the spur of the moment one day my husband, David, suggested we go to a comic-con in Paragould, AR. Neither of us had ever been to one so we were curious. I had also just gotten a rejection letter from the 2nd publishing company I submitted to. The 1st one didn’t even acknowledge me.
When we walked into the comic con, the first table we saw was Burning Willow Press Publishing Co., and we stopped and talked for several minutes. I was impressed with the owners and publishers, Edd and Kindra Sowder, and they encouraged me to submit my book, and they accepted it. I believe it was meant to be, and as the saying goes 3 rd time was the charm. “Keys Of Childish Scrawl,” was released March 2, and can be found on Amazon.
While waiting for my first book to be published I didn’t stop writing. I’ve written short stories for BWP anthologies that were also accepted. Those stories are “The Light In The Window,” “Highway 93,” and “Grandpa’s Glasses.” I’ve written a spin-off of my novel that continues the lives of two of the characters, and I’m working on a third book now with the same characters. Their story develops, and you get to learn more about the meaning of the white owl. I’ve also gotten story ideas from some of my paintings.
On writing, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from it is that I still have a lot more to learn. As I said about developing techniques in art, there’s always room for growth as a writer. I’m branching out with my writing and experimenting with different genres to help me grow.
Constructive criticism should always be welcomed too, because it’s a new perspective on your story or your writing style. Revision is extremely important.
Your first draft is just getting the story down, but there should be many drafts before you decide you are finished and submit anything. Every time I go over something I’ve written, I always rewrite part of it, add something new, or delete something I decide doesn’t work or is completely unnecessary. It just makes the story better.
I’ve wondered how long I’ll write. Well, who knows? But as long as I have story ideas, I’ll be writing. That could be a while because I keep coming up with new stories, many of which stem from my own life experiences.
Bachman: Being a publisher is a very important part of the industry, whether traditional or independent, when did you know that this was what you wanted to do?
Bonson: A tough question to start with – I hope these get easier! It’s a long story – but I looked in the past at a music publishing business and record company, etc. So there had always been a side to me that was interested in promoting unknown works.
It wasn’t until I tried to get my first book, ‘One Hit Wonders,’ published that I realised how difficult the process can be. I then looked at it with my engineering/continuous improvement background and thought that there must be a better way forward. I don’t want to give away too many of our secrets, but we operate a nice middle ground between self-publishing and a full publisher – yet utilise a lot of forward thing printing and publishing technologies.
Bachman: What has been your most favoured moment as being a publisher?
Bonson: Reading reviews from people with no connection to the company or the authors – and seeing how they enjoy our work.
Bachman: What have been some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Bonson: Large chain bookshops aren’t interested in small, independent publishers or unknown authors – so it’s always about trying to do something innovative to draw the readers in, and there are some plans we have for the 12 months that will be quite different to what is out there currently.
Bachman: Is there anything that you’d do different if you were given the chance?
Set aside some additional funds for advertising. It’s one area I really underestimated, but so far we’re doing very well on social media and word of mouth – but it’s a part of the business I know we could do better.
Bachman: As a publisher, it must be difficult to juggle things, how do you keep so motivated and organized?
Bonson: It’s very difficult, especially as I still roles within the motor industry to juggle around and family, hobbies, etc. The motivation is seeing the look on an new authors face when they see their book in print for the first time – it’s a fantastic sight and an amazing feeling to know that you’ve been part of that moment.
Bachman: I read your biography on www.stanhopebooks.com; your publishing company’s website that you’re a fan of not only the arts but cars as well is there a specific type of car that’s your favourite more than any other?
Bonson: Too many nice cars that’s the issue. From a racing car perspective, I’d have to say the 1967 Lotus-Ford 49 Formula One car. Elegant design, amazing engineering and with an evocative green and yellow colour scheme.
Bonson: Road cars – too many to list, but let’s include the DeLorean DMC-12, Ford Mustang BOSS, any Jaguar
Bachman: I also discovered you’re not only a publisher, but also a writer, is there any works of yours you’d like to tell us about as a writer?
Bonson: My writing so far has been non-fictional – focused on my love of motor racing history and pulling together facts, figures, stories that weren’t available in one source anywhere else.
I’ve written plays in the past and am now working on a short story, to be included in a book we’re publishing later this year for a charity, so it will be interesting to see what people think of my fiction work. There are other fictional books I have planned, but there’s a lot of work that needs to go into them from a research perspective first.
Bachman: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Bonson: For the short story coming up, the inspiration was very simple, as I put myself into the role of the main character (I used to be an actor, before becoming involved in engineering). For the other stories I’m working on, it’s difficult to give the inspiration as it would say too much about what they are, but when they come out it will self-explanatory where the inspiration has come from.
Bachman: Is there anything you’d like readers to know about you and your company?
Bonson: We are very small, very independent and always looking to find new outlets, new readers and new authors. We cover hardback, paperback, e-book and audio book formats, alongside a diverse range of subjects.
Bachman: Finally, is there anything you’d like to take the time to promote?
Bachman: Tell us a bit about yourself, your work, what genre(s) you write in, and something you’d like to share about yourself that maybe isn’t well know.
Tann: My name is Bryan Tann. I’m a young kid in a near old fart’s body. I am the author of the Dark Lands universe and the John Baker Chronicles series. I am an author in the CHBB Publishing family. I don’t really have a “genre” that I write in. I enjoy a little bit of everything so I try to incorporate a little bit of everything in my writing. I am huge into collecting movies and tend to yell at the TV at characters that annoy me. Like Dudley Dursley. Selfish, spoiled little prick!
Bachman: Is being a writer a gift or a curse? It is a little bit of both, to be honest. I love being able to find the words to express myself.
Tann: I love the story ideas that I can come up with, but when the muse isn’t there and I NEED to write and can’t it is emotionally painful.
Bachman: What’s your writing process look like? What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Tann: My writing process isn’t really all that special. I tend to research as I go along because my writing process is very chaotic. I get an idea and I start writing. When I come up to something that I do not know about, then I look it up. I find a few different sources and if they come together, there you go. My muse comes and goes so sporadically that I never want to lose it when it comes.
Bachman: If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria: One fictional character from your book.
Tann: I’m honestly not sure. Most of my characters are aspects of me, so they live in my brain anyway. If I was forced to pick one, it would probably be Enya Blake. Who wouldn’t want to be stranded on an island with a beautiful woman?
Bachman: One fictional character from any other book.
Tann: From any book? Hmmm that is a tough one. Maybe Hermione Granger. If I can’t have Enya there, why not have a crafty, genius level witch on my side?
Bachman: One famous person that is not a family member or friend.
Tann: Hmm famous person that isn’t a family member or friend…wow. That’s hard. I would say Ronda Rousey. If someone tried to beat me up, she would have my back.
Bachman: What about the genre(s) you write in attracted you to them?
Tann: I love vampires. Period. Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Wizards, any of that. I love them. The power, the frightening world, I love it all.
Bachman: What’s your latest release about?
Tann: So the first book in the Dark Lands universe, The Enforcer is a story of a bad ass vampire Enforcer named Bryce Kreed. He has had his job as the judge, jury, and executioner of the vampire world, but the power went to his head and he began to enjoy killing too much. After having a…an epiphany…he realizes that he needs to change. So he wants forgiveness, but forgiveness for a vampire isn’t easy. Fast forward a century and he’s stuck in a rut, until Enya Blake, a Mistress Vampire three thousand miles away, needs his help. He first decides to help her just to piss off his “boss” in his hometown until he falls in love with her and decides her safety is his top priority.
Bachman: Do consider yourself to be a successful writer? If so, why? If not, what would make you successful?
Tann: I don’t know really. I mean, how does one define success? Am I doing better than I was when I first started writing ten years ago? Absolutely. I had to learn A LOT of the ups and downs of this business. I needed to meet good people in this business. I have done more in the last year than I did in the nine years previous. So in that regard I’m doing a lot better. Let’s see if it translates into my sales in March HAHAHAHAHA
Bachman: A brilliant idea hits you, what do you do first?
Tann: I try to find a piece of scrap paper and I start writing the idea out.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer? Hahahaha working a day job! But seriously, I would probably get rid of gaming systems. Get me a Blu-Ray player and I don’t really need anything else.
Bachman: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Tann: Oh God yes. It hits me all the time.
Bachman: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Tann: I have only had a few since my first release of The Enforcer and its sequel, The Hunted, didn’t really do that well. I didn’t really get any negative critiques because it was people that knew me that reviewed.
Bachman: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Tann: Which time? HAHAHA. Honestly I just needed to become a stronger writer. I needed to write in a way that was easier for the reader. I needed to grow and I think I am a much better writer than I was even a year ago.
Bachman: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Tann: I think it hurts. When you’re a blatant jerk, you rub people the wrong way. Although you need to have a good balance of being a good person but setting boundaries and expressing confidence. When I think ‘big ego’ I think massive asshole.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry? I hate the people that ‘troll’ writers and negatively review them. Or steal their work and try to pass it off as their own. If you can’t create your own shit then don’t. If you steal someone else’s, you should have some serious consequences come your way. Like launched into the sun.
Bachman: Does your family support your career as a writer?
Tann: I am a firm believer that blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family. Those that I am related to that are family are supportive as best they can be. Those that are just related, I could care less what they think. Those that are straight family, they do what they can. Honestly, though, I’ve never had anyone make a fuss over things that I do. You know? In some instances, I think that, as a kid, so long as I stayed out of trouble with the law they were satisfied.
Bachman: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
Tann: I don’t know yet. I haven’t really been in that situation. I just want to give the reader something great to read and get into. I want their emotions to be hit in all directions. If they hate me for what I did, I hope that they were so into it that I took it into a direction they weren’t emotionally ready for, so they’re like “DAMN YOU!” sort of how people were toward JK Rowling when she killed Dobby and Fred Weasley. It’s because we fell in love with those characters and then BAM! GONE! I want to have that same kind of reaction.
I was lucky to get a few of Richard Pruitt’s time. He’s the mastermind behind the website The Buzzkill Magazine. If you’ve dug deep into the website you will see, for some time, I wrote for this magazine and it spawned the series here on the website called The Veil, formerly known as WTF Cryptos when it lived on Richard’s website.
So, what does a former writer of a magazine ask their former boss who doubles as a comedian? I had several questions and he actually answered them! Below is just that interaction.
For those that don’t know you or what you do in the publishing industry, please take a few moments to explain.
A loaded question right out of the gate. My name is Richard Pruitt and I am the president of Random Evolved Media LLC. Under our umbrella, we publish books, create podcasts, and create content for our online publication TBK Magazine.
How do you do all that you do?
Coffee with a side of more coffee. I always feel the days are not long enough.
From an informational and interesting website to most recently the publishing side of the business, how has the transition been for you?
Adding book publishing to our list of things just seemed perfect. Almost like Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Yes, there are days I want to rip out every hair on my head. At the same time, having the honor of getting to help authors go after their dreams is worth it. Getting to walk through each step of the process with each author is something I never knew I wanted to do with life until I did it.
One glance at your work and one could easily think you’re overworked, what would you have to say to someone wondering how you do it all?
I have always heard the old adage,“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Somedays are bad and frustration rears its three heads. If anyone did not know, frustration looks a lot like King Ghidorah from the Godzilla franchise. By the end of the day, if we made one person smile or think or cry or scared, it’s worth everything.
What’s the first thing you plan on doing when the pandemic is over?
I have thought about this extensively. And when the time comes, I will be taking a trip to my favorite place on the planet, Medieval Times. I wish I was kidding but I walk through the castle doors and I automatically just have a smile on my face. Plus, you can drink beer out of a horn.
With your fingers in so many pots, what’s one thing you haven’t done yet that you’re planning on doing?
Sketch Comedy or creating our own independent movie.
How did you start your career? When did you get the idea and how did you begin your website that has now branched out so greatly?
In high school, I joined the International Thespian Society. During one of our state conventions, I discovered improv. And I jumped on stage when they asked for volunteers, I think I was on that stage for a solid 15 minutes. That is the moment that I decided I wanted to do something to entertain people. I did improv for a little bit, I transitioned to stand up comedy and radio DJ.
The start of TBK Magazine is bittersweet. In 2009, my mom had a stroke. She had to be rushed to the ER and her doctor sat down with me. Someone needed to take care of her. I gave up everything because that is my mother. During that time, I wanted to do something creatively but nothing crossed my mind. YouTube is still in its infancy stages at the time. So, I decided to just write silly stuff. Numbers started out small. I remember being so excited the first time I hit 100 reader for a month. In 2015, we covered a comic convention. And my mind was blown. I remember getting that email and just busting out in tears. I never thought anything like that would happen. It’s still surreal and humbling to me to this day.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Occasionally. I like to do so in private….browsers.
Is there anything you are always on the lookout for? New staffers? New submissions for the publishing company?
We are always looking for new staff members for TBK Magazine. If you have an idea, we would love to hear it. And the same with books. At first, we considered just publishing certain genres, but it just does not fit our company. There is a reason I love the motto “We are Random Evolved.” You can look towards any direction and hopefully find something. Over the next few years, we have books that fall under romance, humor, horror, science fiction, religion being released. As far as submissions, we are open to all genres. Of course, we have to read those submissions.
Also, we are working on our first anthology. The anthology will be coming out stories from members of the LGBTQ+ community. All proceeds from this book will be donated to The Glo Center in Springfield Mo. The center gives LGBTQ+ youth of SW Missouri and the Ozarks a place to be themselves.
Our magazine staff addition page can be found https://tbkmagazine.com/join-staff/ which apparently also has the Uncle Sam I Want You Poster except Uncle Sam is replaced by Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony.
What are your plans for the next five years? Expansion?
I love this question. As a company the main thing is growth. Comic Books and Graphic Novels is something that is being talked about for later down the road. Hard Back Covers for each release. The Podcast Network is growing, next logical progression is adding video with the episodes. One of the reasons I am losing weight. No one wants to see Great Value Josh Gad.