Robert Dunbar is with us for an interview!
He is the author of a number of dark fiction novels – The Pines, The Shore, Martyrs & Monsters, and his latest work WILLY.
He has also been kind to offer one copy of his latest novel to one US winner!
Want to know more about the novel? Link to read Shellie’s recent review of ~ WILLY. Here is my mini blurb:
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verges on the paranormal.
Lets welcome an intriguing, and hilarious writer of literary horror. I recommend a tissue for “giggle tears”. So Robert why write horror? Why read horror?
There’s a Carl Jung quote about “owning your shadow.” I always thought that was such a delicious phrase, and so reassuring … as though by defining the darkness – or at least exploring it – we gain some measure of control over it. And what did Lovecraft say? “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” How could a writer – or any artist really – resist this sort of intensity?
But there’s another reason I write dark fiction: sheer obstinacy. Critics and readers idolize the Mystery writer with a highly evolved style, and they’ll champion the works of a Science Fiction author who perfects a brilliant technique. But a literary Horror writer will get hate mail. For years, the genre has catered almost exclusively to readers who perceive sophistication as an attack on their lack of standards. That’s all it took really – I never could resist a fight.
When and why do you think horror was separated from the literary genre? Where do you think WILLY fits in?
Isn’t it tragic? This glorious genre, the province of Henry James and Edith Wharton and Shirley Jackson, this genre that used to be about exploring the unknown, devolved into a reactionary morass. How many more plots must we all suffer through in which the vanilla family has to be preserved by repelling some nasty foreign type? Don’t even get me started on the zombie mash-ups or the superhero ‘novels’ or all those embarrassing volumes about Bigfoot. The word “horror” used to be a misnomer, since it describes a feeling of physical revulsion rather than a subtle chill of terror. These days it’s entirely appropriate, I’m afraid. It’s a miracle so many brilliant writers continue to labor within these constraints.
Have you read Sarah Waters “The Little Stranger” or Sara Gran’s “Come Closer”? We should give thanks for artists like Peter Straub and Laird Barron, Thomas Ligotti and Greg Gifune and T. M. Wright, Andrew Davidson and Jameson Currier and – a new one I’m keen on – Andrew Wolter. And have you discovered Sandy Deluca or Lisa Mannetti yet? There’s so much sheer talent in the genre right now that I am finally encouraged in the belief that the ‘rule of dumb’ may be drawing to an end. In the meantime, critics keep talking about how revolutionary WILLY is, about how it expands the boundaries of the genre and challenges conventional notions of Horror. You think that won’t draw fire?
You have theatre experience: Did you do any acting or was it all writing? Any interesting tidbits you would like to share about your experiences?
I was a terrible actor, but I was the sort of terrible actor who could make audiences applaud, and then people would stand around afterwards talking about how I was the best thing in the show. It’s a gift … or possibly a curse. In retrospect, I think I ruined every production I was ever in, just to dominate the stage. Don’t ask why I was never lynched. (I know other actors discussed it.) It’s not that I did these things on purpose, you understand. During rehearsals, I’d be dedicated and earnest, but the moment the curtain went up … something would happen. I’d immediately start making up dialogue and changing all the blocking, confusing, even frightening the rest of the cast. (In earlier times, this sort of behavior was recognized as being indicative of demonic possession.) And it didn’t end there. I’ve never been able to resist interfering with a production of one of my own plays – it’s the sort of behavior that makes directors speak wistfully of restraining orders. Trust me, the world at large is much happier now that I concentrate on my fiction and don’t drive anyone crazy but myself.
Tell us about Uninvited Books.
Every other genre has experienced a literary renaissance, but ours is long overdue. Do you mind if I just quote from our mission statement?
“All serious fiction deals (to some extent) with dark themes, and many great works of literature have employed supernatural, surreal or existentialist elements. These books have power. They endure, because they appeal to serious readers and provide thoughtful entertainment. On the current publishing scene, however, dark novels of distinction often find themselves unwelcome … and uninvited. At UNINVITED BOOKS, we believe that readers will choose quality, if works of quality are made available. With an unrelenting focus on visionary artistry, skilled craftsmanship and psychological sophistication, we hope to publish books that will transcend genre classifications. Is this a radical approach to publishing? Perhaps. Is it subversive? Even revolutionary? We believe that lovers of intelligent dark fiction have been waiting for exactly this revolution.”
I think that pretty much says it, but people can always find out more at www.UninvitedBooks.com.
Who is your favorite author and why?
William Faulkner. No, wait. Henry Roth? E. M. Forster? Umm … Willa Cather? Maybe D. H. Lawrence? No, James Joyce. Virginia Woolf? Hang on. Gustav Meyrink? Kafka? Proust? Wait, I can do this … Or not.
But the “why” part of the question at least is easy. It’s because of that combination of craft and dedication, passion and discipline, insight and imagination. Because of genius.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be? Incarcerated.
How would you define Dark Fiction for an uninitiated reader?
I think dark literature probably differs from commercial horror because of its focus on craft, on sheer excellence of style, on what I can only call seriousness of purpose. All those the-vampires-and-zombies-are-attacking-yawn-for-your-lives books seek only to provide a momentary thrill. Serious dark fiction must meet the considerably higher standards of art and provide a much deeper catharsis.
What prompted you to write a novel like WILLY?
Masochism. Writing that book entirely in the boy’s voice was the hardest, most painful challenge I’ve ever undertaken. It paid off though – the reviews have been extraordinary. Critic after critic has called it one of the most powerful books they’ve ever read. You can’t ask for better than that.
Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you write?
Why? What have you heard? It’s all lies. I don’t even own a kimono.
What advice would you give the aspiring writer?
Read. Read everything. Hemingway and Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. NOT just the best-selling twaddle on the rack at the drugstore. Really, that’s about the only advice one writer can offer another. That and never wear a black bra under a white blouse.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life? Trusting my heart.
If you were trapped in an elevator for four hours, who/what would you want with you?
I’m SO taking the fifth on that one.
In your next life what/who do you want to come back as? My dog.
What is your next project? Just a little tease would be wonderful.
Many years ago, I wrote a novel called THE PINES, and the book has come to be considered a sort of modern classic. But it’s always been something of a cause célèbre. (Or perhaps I mean bête noire. I get my French terms confused.) For every critic who called it a “masterpiece of literature” or “one of the best horror novels of the last thirty years,” another would shriek that the book had no right to exist. It takes place in one of the old, vanished shanty towns of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and I employed the legend of the Jersey Devil as a metaphor for human evil and debasement. Let me tell you, I hit a nerve.
But when it first appeared in print, I found myself in the middle of my own horror story. Here I was getting my first novel published by a mass market paperback house, and I opened it to discover that the book had been hacked to pieces. Even my African-American heroine had suddenly become white. (Mercifully, a restored version appeared a few years ago.) Nevertheless, the book attracted admirers. And the sequel – THE SHORE – inspired and provoked just as many people. Apparently, those damn literary qualities are still an outrage.
My next project? I’m finally at work on the last entry in the trilogy – THE STREETS – which finds the characters from both earlier books struggling in a very urban environment. In what I laughingly refer to as my spare time, I’m also polishing a nonfiction book called VORTEX, about the influence of folklore on popular fiction, and then there’s a new edition of my collection MARTYRS & MONSTERS due to be released very shortly (with some additional material). Plus I have a new novella called WOOD that should be out quite soon.
People who enjoyed my WILLY are going to love my WOOD. Why does that sound so filthy?
Thank you so much for sharing with us here today Robert. It has been enlightening and * giggling tear wipe* very funny.
More about ~ Robert Dunbar: He is a playwright, has written for radio, television and theater and is the author of The Pines, The Shore, and Martyrs & Monsters. In his spare time he likes to imagine himself as a professional ice skater, or possibly a trainer of tarantulas for jungle pictures. You can find more about him on his website and blog, Goodreads (his wonderful and accessible group there – Literary Horror) Twitter, and Facebook. To read an excerpt – see Uninvited Book’s excerpt of Willy.
Now for the Giveaway!
Lets make this one very simple! You do not have to be a follower to win. But you must leave your name and email address so I can contact you if you win.
That’s It! (Please note - if you are reading this in an email or a reader you may have to link to the blog to view and use this entry form).
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Contest ends Tuesday May 31st, 2011 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Monday June 6th, 2011.
We use random.org to determine our winners. If you have a question or a concern (a typo or bad link or a problem with this form) please email me via my profile – Shellie.
Thanks for reading!