Interview with Richard Thomas


Richard Thomas is a brilliant author, and he’s Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. Richard has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about Smurfs, the Singularity, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: Hi, Richard. Welcome to my little chthonic cave. I hope you didn’t have any problems finding your way here.

Richard Thomas: Hey, Jeremy. Thanks. Just followed the trail of bones, and the colony of bats that came streaming out of the opening. No worries.

JCS: First of all, I should ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Do you believe that eating live Smurfs is morally wrong?

RT: I’d have to say yes—no matter how juicy or delicious they might be. Eating anything that’s still alive is pretty cruel. Smurf is a little gamey for my taste, anyway.

JCS: We’ll have to agree to disagree. Anyway, if you were a supervillain, what creatures would you want as your trusty minions?

RT: Huh. Minions—something prehistoric, maybe? Pterodactyl? I wrote a flash fiction piece about a Gandaberunda, a two-headed mythological bird. Those would be cool. Although I do have a slight fear of flying monkeys from my childhood Wizard of Oz days—so maybe that’s too close. As a kid, when asked what animal I wanted to be, it was always a cheetah.

JCS: Which multiverse hypothesis do you find most compelling?

RT: I have a lot of beliefs—some which may contradict each other. I believe in reincarnation, but I want to believe there is some kind of heaven. I believe in ghosts, that there are aliens out there, life on other planets. I’d like to believe in parallel dimensions. I’ve seen some wild things in my life, time rewinding, and playing back, which makes me think what we believe to be true is probably not very accurate. I also love The Matrix. There’s the end of Interstellar to consider, too. Whether you want to apply Occam’s Razor, or believe in quilted, brane, cyclic, or inflationary multiverses, I think we probably know only a fraction of what’s really going on.

JCS: What would you do if you met your doppelganger?

RT: I think there would probably be a handful of gut responses—kill it, have a conversation, or pretend you didn’t see it. I’d probably want to sit down and talk, try to understand what was going on, because it would certainly shake my reality. Saw a movie recently, Enemy, with Jake Gyllenhaal that was really interesting, about a doppelganger. There are days I feel that this is all a dream, and there are days where I feel that I’ve lived this life before. Who knows?

JCS: What question would you least like me to ask? And can you answer that question?

RT: I’m sure I’ve got some skeletons in my closets I’d prefer to leave there. And no, I’d prefer not to get into that.

JCS: How do you deal with withered hands growing out of your walls?

RT: You know, a hand, by it’s definition and nature, just wants to touch—it wants to hold, stroke, caress—just wants to be loved, like the rest of us. They want to feel valued, and special, a part of something. And withered, I imagine there would already be some self-conscious doubt, not the hands they used to be, all of the young, soft hands getting the attention. So, the way I deal with MY withered hands growing out of MY walls is to embrace them—I let them get to work, in a number of ways. Very exciting. The future of publishing, I think.

JCS: By George, I think you’re right. If Earth were an egg, what do you believe would hatch from it?

RT: LOL. Good question. I think it could go one of two ways—all of the love, and peace, and kindness could give birth to some kind of beautiful, angelic creature (why am I thinking about the baby at the end of 2001?) or it could be the opposite—all of our hatred, fear and violence born in some demonic, mythic, destructive beast. Depends on if you’re a half-full or half-empty kind of guy, I think.

JCS: Do you have a favorite Bizarro author/filmmaker/artist?

RT: Oh, man, that’s tricky. I was just thinking about this the other day. The first story I ever published was a bit of bizarro at Opium Magazine, entitled “Animal Magnetism” about a couple that gets a series of animal parts attached, in order to make their sex life better. I think the opening line was something like, “It started out with the elephant penis and went downhill from there.” Bradley Sands passed on it for Beat Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, but suggested Opium. Which brings me to a reading Bradley did at an AWP event, maybe in Denver, where he read a story about soccer moms that just had the room in stitches, so funny. I laughed so much. So, I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Bradley.

JCS: What is the origin story of your interest in neo-noir and transgressive fiction?

RT: I think it all starts with Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. I saw the movie, and it woke me up. I found his books, and read everything he had out, starting with Choke, Survivor, Diary, Lullaby, etc. That got me to The Velvet, a website for Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger and Stephen Graham Jones. Those guys really spoke to me, the way they bent genres to create dark, lyrical stories that were both exciting and literary, ticking off all of the flavors—salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. I didn’t know you could write like that. I read some wild authors in college, William Burroughs, for example, but I grew up reading Stephen King and John Grisham, popular writers, mostly. Later, when I got my MFA, I’d study the dark sheep of the literary world—Denis Johnson, Mary Gaitskill, Cormac McCarthy, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, etc. So, for me, the ideal story, or novel finds the sweet spot between genre and lit, between visceral and introspective, between tension and lyricism. That’s what I try to write, and that’s what I like to edit and publish.

JCS: Can you tell us a bit about Gamut magazine?

RT: Sure. It’s an online magazine I’m Kickstarting on 2/1/16. It will focus on fiction, with new stories out every Monday, reprints every Thursday, with columns sprinkled in, and poetry, as well. If we can hit a few stretch goals, we’ll expand to more non-fiction, a Flash Fiction Friday, and a Saturday Night Special (which would be a serialization of Stripped: A Memoir, to start). We’ll focus on the kind of genres we’ve been talking about here—fantasy, science fiction, horror, transgressive, magical realism, neo-noir, Southern gothic, bizarro, and new weird—all with a literary bent. It won’t be “classic” in any sense of the word, but contemporary dark fiction. If Gamut were a film it would be directed by David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, or David Lynch. We need to raise $52,000, and the bulk of that will come from an annual subscription of $30, for over 400,000 words of fiction, new art every week, and much more. After the Kickstarter, the regular rate will be $60/year, or $5/ month. We will NEVER offer the $30/year rate again. AND, as long as you keep renewing, you can keep that rate indefinitely. If you’ve read any of my writing, the books I’ve published at Dark House Press, and/or the four anthologies I’ve edited—The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), Burnt Tongues, with Chuck Palahniuk and Dennis Widmyer (Medallion), or The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press)—then you’re probably familiar with my aesthetic.

JCS: Where do you see Gamut in 10 years? And where do you see it after the Singularity?

RT: I’d like us to be an important part of the landscape—alongside publications like Tor, Nightmare, Apex, F&SF, Clarkesworld, Black Static, Shock Totem, etc. I’d like to see us continue to grow, to gain the kind of following that Tin House and A24 Films have—passionate fans that are invested in what we do. This is all in progress—people can make suggestions, help us to shape and form Gamut, into something special. Hopefully. As for after the Singularity, hopefully Gamut will just start running itself and I can chill out on a beach in Hawaii and sip on Piña Coladas for the rest of my life.

JCS: Perhaps a pterodactyl butler could serve you the drinks? Thank you kindly for taking the time to answer my questions. Here’s a complementary bag of fresh ectoplasm.

RT: My pleasure. Great questions, Jeremy. Oh, and thanks, I just ran out, this saves me a trip to the store.

JCS: *backs away and fades into the shadows*

If you feel so inclined, check out Gamut Magazine’s kickstarter campaign right here. 

richardthomasRichard Thomas is the author of seven books: Three novels, Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections, Tribulations (Crystal Lake), Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), and Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press); as well as one novella of The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 100 stories published, his credits include Cemetery Dance, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad 2 & 3, Gutted, and Shivers 6. He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, and has received five Pushcart Prize nominations to date. He is also the editor of four anthologies: Exigencies and The New Black (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk (finalist for the Bram Stoker Award). In his spare time he is a columnist at LitReactor and Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. He has taught at LitReactor, the University of Iowa, StoryStudio Chicago, and in Transylvania. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit

An Interview with Brent Michael Kelley

Brent Michael Kelley is the author of a fantastic novel called Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways. Brent has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about his book,  hydrofluoric acid, robotic squids, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: Can you tell us a bit about Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways?

Brent Michael Kelley: Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways is a sequel. Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater was the first book, published in 2011. It’s a continuation, but a person could enjoy it just fine without reading the first book. We pick up with Chuggie just a few days after the Desecration of Stagwater, and he’s just getting back on his feet. There are some people in the wilderness he has to find. The bone dagger he stole in the first book seems to have even stranger properties than he originally thought. The otherworldly Steel Jacks want to catch Chuggie and find out about his fancy dagger. It also follows a few other characters. There’s Pazuel, the half-demon on a path of enlightenment. There’s Ree, a recently widowed refugee of Stagwater who’s going through some personal changes. There’s Fey Voletta, the sexy blade cultist in the employ of the Steel Jacks. Action packed!

JCS: What inspired you to donate half of your royalties to the American Cancer Society?

BMK: It’s something that’s been on my mind a while. Like a lot of people, I’ve lost family members and friends to cancer. My cousin Tim was just 17 when he lost his struggle. Cancer needs to be defeated permanently, and if Chuggie could help in that fight, that’d be pretty cool.

JCS: If you were a mime, how would you break out of a glass box?

BMK: I’d pump invisible hydrofluoric acid on it, and then I’d skedaddle. You don’t want to be hanging around to breathe those fumes, bro. It’ll make everything taste like garlic… for the rest of your life! Also, it might kill you. HEISENBERG!!!!

JCS: What literary character would you most want to sing a duet with and what song would you sing?

BMK: I’d sing “Islands in the Stream”, originally performed by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. I’d sing it with Daenerys Targaryen. Then me and my little Khaleesi could discuss future duets back in her tent. You know, just for the privacy so her army of Unsullied don’t leak our plans to TMZ. If it sounds like I’ve given this a lot of thought, it’s because I have.

JCS: If you were a super villain, who would you want as your minions?

BMK: Human Obliterating Robotic Demon Enforcer Squids. My HORDES would swarm by the thousands and bring any opposition to sudden, terrified compliance. Examples will be made of any world leaders who resist my authority. I like a minion to be robotic because when you rise to the level of “world emperor” you can’t really trust people anymore. Sure, somebody could tamper with HORDES, but I don’t think they will. Not after they see what could happen if they’re caught.

JCS: Remember that time when that thing happened?

BMK: Ha! I sure do! We were all like “Whaaaaat?!!!” And then that guy did that other thing, and we all laughed! Oh, man, I tell ya I thought my head was gonna explode. Then the chick with the deal came flying through the stuff! And then the doohickey swung around and melted those college kids! Heh, I still have that one kid’s shirt. Not like he needs it now! You got one, too, right?

JCS: Oh yes. Favorite movie to watch on Halloween?

BMK: Call me old fashioned, but I like Trick ’r Treat. And anything directed by Rob Zombie. And Kung Fu Panda II. That last one feels unrelated, but for some reason I stand by it.

JCS: What projects do you have in the works?

BMK: I’m working on the third Chuggie book, Chuggie and the Prisoner Gods, which is scheduled for a September release. It’s going to be jam packed with so much adventure, horror, profanity, and booze, writing it may very well destroy my brain. I very recently got the idea for a series about these people with strange powers. You wouldn’t call them superheroes, exactly. It’ll be very dark. That project is so preliminary, I shouldn’t even be talking about it. But I AM talking about it! I know, I’m pretty hardcore. I also have a snow shoveling project, a vacuuming project, and a laundry project that I’m involved in. I’m a little past deadline on those…

We just wrapped up Chuggie and the Fish Freaks of Farheath. It’s a stand-alone short story, and it’s available on Amazon. It doesn’t follow the same storyline as the novels, but it’s a fun little introduction to Chuggie and his world. Basically, Chuggie is on trial for crimes he didn’t commit, and he’s quite possibly too intoxicated to testify effectively on his own behalf. Look for more of Chuggie’s shorts in the future!

Thanks, Jeremy. It’s always a pleasure.

JCS: Thank you, Brent!

bmk-author-photoBrent Michael Kelley’s debut novel Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater was released in December of 2011 from Omnium Gatherum. His short story “Ride” was included in Detritus, a collection of stories about collections (also by Omnium Gatherum). His story-poem “Gnoem” was published in A Pocketful of Moondust, a children’s anthology from Rebel Books (UK). Most recently, his second novel, Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways was published in June, 2013. Now he’s working on a short story or two along with his third novel, Chuggie and the Prisoner Gods. He can be found on the web at

Interview with David Liebe Hart


David Liebe Hart is a musician, artist, puppeteer, and actor. In 1988, he followed the guidance of his Sunday School teacher Jim Henson and began producing The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Program on public access television. Eventually the show caught the eye of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, who cast Liebe Hart to sing his bizarre songs on their hit Cartoon Network show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!.  David has taken time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about puppets, trains, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: First of all, what do you think is the meaning of life?

David Liebe Hart: I think the meaning of life is to be nice to people and contribute to the world by doing things that are creative and artistic.

Jeremy: When did you first become interested in puppetry?

David: When I was a kid I grew up watching so many good puppet shows, so that’s what got me into it. Jim Henson was also my Sunday School teacher when we lived in the Washington DC area. He gave me some of his puppets and told me to do a show for kids about Christian Science.

Jeremy: Have you ever seen a ghost?

David: When I was growing up in Chicago at South Ellis there were two ghosts named The Pickle Man and Mr. Moose. They used to come into my room at night and tickle me while I was sleeping.

Jeremy: If you could sing a duet with any historical figure, who would you choose?

David: Probably Maggie Evans from the original Dark Shadows show. She was so hot!

Jeremy: And what song would you sing?

David: Maybe a Christian Science Hymn put to my own original music or some traditional jazz or classical music that I wrote.

Jeremy: What’s your favorite food?

David: I had some duck in Tucson, AZ that was really good, but the portions were so small. Also, lately I’ve been in love with sweet potato lattes.

Jeremy: Let’s say you were traveling through space on an intergalactic train. If you looked out your window, what would you want to see?

David: Well, all the beautiful stars and planets. I’d also hope to see some UFOs.

Jeremy: Are you afraid of clowns?

David: Not normally, but I saw a show from England that had a clown on it that was really odd.

Jeremy: What’s your favorite movie of all time?

David: I don’t normally watch any movies, but I did see Lord of The Rings one time when I was on tour. It was so good, I went out and bought all three seasons.

Jeremy: What’s the strangest thing that happened to you while working on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job?

David: One time they had John C. Reilly pretend like he was giving me a shower, then another time they got into bed with me! They’re cool guys, though.

Jeremy: What’s the best part about being famous?

David: Getting to meet different people and all of my fans. I’m always nice to my fans because I used to be a fan myself.

Jeremy: What’s the worst part?

David: All these people are calling me all the time and it’s running up my phone bill talking long distance.

Jeremy: If you were a super hero, what would you want your super power to be?

David: If I could fly that would be nice because public transportation is terrible in Los Angeles. Another good power would be to be able to make all my favorite train lines come back to life and make it so I could ride them for free.

Jeremy: What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned from space aliens?

David: There’s an alien guy named La Rent who came to me to tell me that porn was wrong, and he was right! If you look at too much porn you’ll never learn to value a woman.

Be sure to check out David’s website and the trailer for the Roast of David Liebe Hart.

About the interviewer:

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and Sheep and Wolves. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 60 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Withersin, and Shroud Magazine. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with a couple of pygmy tigers and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic–not so much. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp. Feel free to contact Jeremy via email at: chrismatrix(at)yahoo(dot)com

Interview with Brent Michael Kelley

Brent Michael Kelley is the author of a fantastic novel called Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. I highly recommend it. Brent has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about his book, breakfast cereal characters, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: Can you tell us a bit about Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater?

Brent Michael Kelley: Sure. My protagonist Chuggie is the embodiment of Drought. He’s this sort of drunken drifter/junk salesman who’s fond of telling wild stories, and trouble always seems to find him. He gets to a town called Stagwater, and meets a witch in the woods. He tries to help her by going into town, where he’s lied to and manipulated. We got magic and monsters and plenty of rambling, drunken stories. I told one friend it was like Fear and Loathing in Middle Earth. It’s very light-hearted. Oh, and dark. If you like blood, grab a poncho and step right up. Release is scheduled for December 1, 2011. Shoot, is that today?

I’d also like to point out that, while I’d been tinkering with the story for years, I never had a clue how to tell it well. Then I took the Jeremy C. Shipp writing workshop. Boom. I learned how to write good and made some wonderful new friends. I came away with a new understanding of my story, as well as a first chapter that was miles beyond what I started with. That’s also where I met my publisher, Kate Jonez of Omnium Gatherum. She liked my story and asked to publish it. I said, “Awesome.” Then she helped me hammer it into something that I think people will actually like reading.

JCS: I’m very happy that you found the workshop to be beneficial to you! If you could make your own crayon color, what would it be called?

BMK: Grold. It’s a mix between the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers. Mmm, grold… Now there’s a color that smells like Championship!

JCS: What is it about writing fiction that you enjoy?

BMK: I like building on ideas, realizing them. It’s easy to sit around saying “I should write a story about haunted goat cheese terrorizing a trailer park!” But if you never write it, you start to sound like a crazy person. So then you sit down and forge your vague idea into something clear. Keep adding, then saw some pieces off. You get to meet new and fascinating people. Then, after you torture them for a while, you can show your friends.

JCS: If you could surgically attach any object to your body, what would you choose?

BMK: My first response is a shoulder-mounted plasma cannon, like that movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kindergarten Cop. Was it Kindergarten Cop? I don’t know, it had Danny DeVito in it. I think a plasma cannon on my shoulder would really get me a lot of respect at Tuesday morning Bingo. But if that’s not an option, my second choice would be a megaphone. If I can’t be right, I should at least be loud.

JCS: Excellent choices! (And yes, that was definitely Kindergarten Cop you’re thinking of.) What would you do if you woke up and found yourself transformed into a giant coconut monkey?

BMK: I’d be calling YOU, because you obviously had something to do with it. But you’re on the West Coast, and I’m inWisconsin, so there’s a time difference. I’d have two hours to kill before you got out of bed and got my voicemail. I’d probably just watch Flapjack until then. Maybe Sons of Anarchy, depending on the morning.

JCS: You caught me! I put magic coconut monkey powder in your blueberry smoothie. Speaking of blue things, have you ever accidentally stepped on a Smurf?

BMK: Interesting question. I almost stepped on several smurfs two summers ago, but they dove to safety at the last second. I crushed the hell out of their Smurfberry cart, though. That’s when P’apah, their shaman, put a Smurf-curse on me. You don’t want no Smurf-curse. Ha! Like I need to tell YOU that!

JCS: I lose more organs that way! What’s your favorite place in the world?

BMK: There’s a stretch of Highway 64 inWisconsin. I take it from Bloomer to New Richmond. It’s all farmland and forest. It’s wide open, and there aren’t many cars to meet. I’ve seen deer, foxes, bears, turkeys. There’s this burnt-out farmhouse next to the road that I used to stop and photograph. The whole stretch is amazing year round. At least to me. That’s also where a lot of my novel was written. I used to jabber into my voice recorder with Tom Waits playing in the background. I’d work through the story, passing by crows on fence posts. It is wonderfully spooky at night.

JCS: I’d love to see it! Who would you rather hire: a monkey butler, a robot coachman, or a yard gnome scullery maid?

BMK: Robot coachman, final answer. Breakneck speed with robot precision? That’s what I’m talkin bout.

JCS: If you could have any breakfast cereal character as a sidekick, who would you choose?

BMK: Snap, Crackle, Pop. A lot of people don’t know this, but those three little elves? They’re one creature. It’s true! They are one mind across three bodies. I’d drive it insane by sealing one body in a shoe box and taking the other two with me on all my adventures.

JCS: You rascal you! What can you tell us about your future projects?

BMK: Coming this month, I’ll have a short story appearing in the Detritus anthology, also from Omnium Gatherum. That book has an all star list of contributors, and it’s pretty fantastic to be included with them. Then, this winter I’ll be hard at work on the follow up to Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. My publisher wants more Chuggie, so I’d best deliver. I’ve got some fun stuff in store for ol’ Chuggie, and I’m finding out more every day. I might need to take a few trips down Hwy 64 with my voice recorder, too. Thanks for the interview, Jeremy. I quite enjoy our conversations!

JCS: Thank you, Brent!

Brent Michael Kelley lives in the Wisconsin Northwoods with such creatures as hairless dogs, a snake named Darth Batman, and the woman he married on Halloween. By day, he’s a graphic designer. By night, he’s a painter, a writer, and a winemaker. He can be found on the web at

Interview with S. S. Michaels

S. S. Michaels is the author of a brilliant novel called Idols & Cons. The book is disturbing, intense and funny as hell. S. S. Michaels has taken time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her book, monsters made of candy, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: Can you tell us a little (or a lot) about Idols & Cons?

S. S. Michaels: After a night of passion with a rock star she didn’t want to meet, poor Mary Bellows goes missing. Damien Tungsten knows where she is, though. After accidentally strangling her, he rolls her up in an expensive rug and dumps her in the trash. Hours later, his neighbor, one psychotic visual artist, Patrick Salinger, finds her. He drags her back into their apartment building, planning to fashion some ghastly and priceless installation pieces out of her dead body. One boy, John Thomas – meth dealer, high school loser, and son of an alcoholic – witnesses both incidents. Unfortunately for John, Damien sees him in his window as he flees the scene.

Following a battle with his own conscience, John confronts Patrick. Bad idea. Patrick forces John into helping him dismember Mary. Freaked out and in need of a smoke, John is allowed to step outside for a moment. As he puffs away, pondering his predicament, a big old Cadillac screeches to a stop right in front of him and whisks him away to the desert. When they arrive at their destination – a swank rehab facility – John finds Damien waiting to see him. Convinced that he’s about to be killed, John prays that Damien just makes it quick and painless. Damien’s got something else in mind, though – something much more painful than death: John, a punk rocker to the core, will be taken into Damien’s boy band, where he can be babysat twenty-four seven.

Reluctantly, John is transformed into teen idol Jake Wolfram. His ego spins out of control, swelling his head and his desire for even more fame and power. In an act of revenge, John uses his stash of drugs to weaken Damien and switch places with him – the imprisoned becomes the imprisoner. Patrick, also seeking revenge, comes out of hiding to attend John’s debut art exhibit. After shooting the place up, Patrick is carted off to prison where he ultimately makes it to death row. At the boy band’s performance immediately following the art gallery debacle, Damien collapses with a heart attack, caused by an overdose of cocaine. John has everything he wants: a successful art career, a promising music career, and a house in the Valley for his mom.

Back to exact his own revenge at a book signing, Damien pulls a gun and takes aim at John, ending the story with a bang.

JCS: In a battle royale, which McDonalds character would be victorious?

SSM: I’d have to go with the Grimace. He’s definitely got the size and weight advantage. And have you seen that crazed look in his eyes? I wouldn’t mess with that guy.

JCS: Me neither. How would you describe your creative process when it comes to writing novels?

SSM: I generally latch on to some weird idea I hear on the news or through social media, and I go off on a researching spree, which generates more weird ideas. Then, I make an insanely detailed outline, which I throw out about half-way through my story when I allow my characters to just take over and show me what they’re made of.

JCS: Did any real life event inspire you to write Idols & Cons?

SSM: Idols & Cons started life as a screenplay, which was inspired by time I spent working on various music award shows. I caught a glimpse of just what goes on backstage and at after-parties, and the whole thing just sparked my imagination. I thought how awful it would be to be stuck in the celebrity lifestyle if that just wasn’t your thing.

JCS: How would you defeat a monster made of candy corn and circus peanuts?

SSM: I’d definitely use a flamethrower.

JCS: Good plan. How would you define fame?

SSM: Fame is never being able to go to the grocery store.

JCS: If you were to create your own fragrance, what three smells would you combine?

SSM: Let’s see, I’d want it to be memorable. So, how about some candy corn, garlic, and sandalwood. Mmmmm.

JCS: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

SSM: I’ve got one project completed, just waiting to be published, called REVIVAL HOUSE. It’s kind of a Fight Club meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil meets “Ghost Adventures” meets real-life reanimation.

Another project I’ve got going involves a teenager with growth hormone deficiency trying to escape his life in a cult. He finally gets the girl of his dreams (a local store cashier) to take him to a hockey game, where he gets hit in the head with a puck, which brings out some supernatural power in him. He eventually finds his way out of the cult, but it may not be exactly what he was hoping for.

And, I’ve got two anthologies I’m working on – one called ICE PICKS: MOST CHILLING TALES FROM THE ICE PLAZA (Rainstorm Press) with a bunch of stories from a lot of really talented writers, and the other called DETRITUS (Omnium Gatherum), also with some fabulous stories.

JCS: If you were a superhero (and I believe you are), who would be your arch nemesis?

SSM: I had an arch nemesis, actually. Last year, the same car would be in front of me every day in the pick-up line at my kids’ school. Some days, I’d leave extra early and he/she would be right behind me. I wonder what happened to that person. Maybe the curse I put on them finally worked. (Or their kid switched schools. Either way, I won!)

JCS: Good for you!

S. S. Michaels is a writer of transgressive/dark literary fiction. She’s jumped out of an airplane, driven a race car, and traveled the world. She lives with her husband and two kids, two dogs, and a bearded dragon on the Georgia coast. Her upcoming novel, IDOLS & CONS (Omnium Gatherum Media) is set to be released November 15, 2011, with a couple of anthologies coming out shortly thereafter. Also, look for a story in Evil Jester Press’s ATTIC TOYS anthology.

Idols & Cons is available on Amazon.

Interview with Sean Hemeon

Sean Hemeon stars in Husbands, a marriage equality comedy. He also played Max on As The World Turns, and recently he was excited to play a vampire on one of his favorite TV shows: True Blood.

Jeremy C. Shipp: How did you land the gig on Husbands the Series?

Sean Hemeon: I auditioned. I was the only one who had to audition. Haley was written for Alessandra and Cheeks, well Cheeks wrote it, so yep, just me. They auditioned for a whole month, saw hundreds if not thousands of submissions, and read with a bunch of guys and were going to settle for this one gentlemen. However, Cheeks had a feeling they should have one more go around and reached out further to the casting directors they knew and two of them said, “Oh, that sounds like Sean.” So in I came and then suddenly I found myself married to Cheeks!

Jeremy: If you could try any imaginary food from a book or film, which one would you choose?

Sean: I love the scene from Hook when Peter Pan has to remember what it’s like to be a kid for the imaginary food to appear. And I remember I always wanted to eat the imaginary food.

Jeremy: How does acting in a web series differ from your other acting experiences?

Sean: That depends on the type of web series – Husbands is a comedy that does have some basis in reality, it however feels like it’s more and so therefore the acting can afford to be bigger and broader! It almost feels more like stage!

Jeremy: If you were a supervillian, what kind of ray would you use? A deathray, freezeray, or some other sort of ray?

Sean: I’d use a truth ray and make the entire world tell the truth. That’d bring the world down…which is unfortunate…or would it…hmm not sure how’d that pan out. At least we’d know Michelle Bachman is really a scared Lesbian. Yeah I got political – her husband’s gay too…welcome to the “dark side,” ladies (insert super villian laugh).

Jeremy: Did growing up in a full house with six other siblings help shape who you are today?

Sean: Not only that but I was the middle child! It’s probably why I am a performer…”Hey Mom, look over here – look! look!” We had to fight for our parents attention.

Jeremy: If you were a vampire, what kind of clothes would you wear?

Sean: I fucking love vampires. It excites my dark side to have such supreme confidence cause you know you can snap any m’fers neck if they’re being stupid. Yep – definitly have the courage to finally wear all leather…boots, jacket…the whole thing.

Jeremy: Your favorite experience so far with Husbands?

Sean: Trying to outrun the security from LA Live was a special bonding moment. Spending the weekend with Cheeks in the hotel set was special. Naming the Zebra Rachel. Dying of laughter with Alessandra over Haley’s “taste like colors.” Saying Jane’s lines. Taking a hilarious suggestion from Jeff. Honestly not just saying this but Husbands is my most favorite experience overall for the entire year!

Jeremy: If you found yourself lost in a magic forest, what would you do first?

Sean: Ask the trees how to get out.

Jeremy: Was there a specific moment in your life that made you want to be a performer?

Sean: See: president of elementary school.

Jeremy: You were president of your elementary school. Did you have a campaign slogan?

Sean: I won my campaign because I stood in front of the entire school and sang my speech. It was to the tune of the Genie’s song from Aladdin, I sang, ” You ain’t never had a pres like me!” re: specific moment, performer…after I finished singing and looked up, I saw the entire school – kindergarten through 6th grade and the teachers – rolling around in such joyous laughter – I thought, “There might be something to this.” I was a horrible class president but hey I discovered I liked performing.

Jeremy: Do you think The Count from Sesame Street drinks the blood of the innocent?

Sean: Poor Bert and Ernie.

Jeremy: May they rest in peace. What’s the secret of comedy?

Sean: To not have a secret and to not try to be funny. Death to those who “try.”

Jeremy: What advice would you give to those who want to act on a web series?

Sean: Meet people any way you can. I had two casting directors suggest me for this web series, and they suggested me because they knew me outside of auditioning. You’re here to work but you’re also here to live, so make friends!

Jeremy: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be, and how would you go about taking over the world?

Sean: The tree of life. Enough said.

Jeremy: What do you fear the least?

Sean: God – the Universe.

Jeremy: I can’t find my glasses. Any idea where I might have left them?

Sean: I have an idea. When I was younger I was late for school and couldn’t find my library book, so my good Christain mother said that I should pray about it. I ran to the book case, knelt down in front of it and asked God to help me find my book, after I said amen and opened my eyes the book was directly in front of me. That’s when I knew that I was the most important person in the entire galaxy because God stopped running the entire whatever it is we live in – dimensional, force, energy, universe thingie – to pay attention to lil me and only me. He had my vote after that…maybe you can pray about it and be as important as me. But don’t tell anyone else cause they’ll get mad.

Jeremy: Don’t worry, Sean. I won’t tell a soul. So, would you rather befriend a pygmy dragon, a giant Smurf, or a golem made of peanut butter?

Sean: Hmm, I don’t eat peanut butter – if it was almond butter we’d have a different answer. A giant smurf is like super gay and I’m gay enough. So I guess a pygmy dragon…I just wanted to be able to ride it but pygmy is like dog size and I’m so tall so that’s really like cat size and I can’t ride a cat cause I’m just too big for the p___. I led you down a dark path but you followed and read the entire thing and liked it! Have a nice day!

Thank you, Sean!

Want to watch Husbands the Series right now?

Here’s episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 4:

About the author: Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Cursed, Sheep and Wolves, and Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his wife, Lisa, and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic – not so much. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.

Interview with Cheeks

Cheeks is the co-creator and star of Husbands, a marriage equality comedy. He’s also the founder and CEO of WeYüMe. Cheeks has taken time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about Husbands, yard gnomes, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: For those who don’t know yet, what is Husbands the Series all about?

Cheeks: Husbands is a classic romantic comedy premise told in a very 21st century fashion.

Jeremy: If you were a supervillain, how would you go about taking over the world?

Cheeks: I’d cast a spell that makes everyone dance, like Bette Middler in Hocus Pocus.

Jeremy: Can you describe the genesis of Husbands?

Cheeks: I knew I wanted to do a project with Alessandra Torresani. She’s a good friend of mine and we love playing off each other. That’s my favorite part of Hollywood. You can say, “We have so much fun together! Let’s see if we can get paid to have fun together.” I wrote a script with the two of us as the leads, at the core of which was our characters growing up together, getting serious about being adults. That’s when Jane and I realized the more obvious pairing to “grow up together” would be a couple …a gay couple …a newlywed gay couple! We knew the perfect addition to the couple premise would be a colorful gal pal and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jeremy: If you could have a pygmy version of any mythological creature as a pet, which one would you choose?

Cheeks: Pegasus, for sure. He could follow me around the house in flight. That would be awesome. I would name him Valentino. Although, a Sphinx would be really cool too. I’d name him Sans Serif the Sheriff of Cairo.

Jeremy: One of the many things I love about Husbands is that Cheeks and Brady are unique individuals, as opposed to two-dimensional gay stereotypes. For you, how important is it to portray the diversity that exists in the gay community?

Cheeks: Showing diversity is important to me, but I didn’t approach these characters with an agenda to portray gays in any way other than complex people with well defined traits and unique voices. I focused more on making them as opposite from each other as possible. Dharma and Greg. I think in some ways they actually are stereotypes, but they’re more “classic sitcom gender role” stereotypes that happen to be gay. Then throughout the show, we explore where each one has unique masculine and feminine qualities that aren’t specific to their demeanor. Cheeks is feminine, but much more cavalier and guarded with his emotions like a typical guy. Brady is masculine, but sensitive and vulnerable. I think everyone, straight or gay, has variations of both. Yin and yang.

Jeremy: How would you solve a problem like Maria?

Cheeks: Easy. Make her raise seven kids and send in the Nazis. She’ll shape right up.

Jeremy: I bet she will! What are the benefits of using the internet as your artist’s palette?

Cheeks: They’re endless!  It’s a direct line from the artist to the people. It’s also the biggest gallery in the world, it’s free, it’s open 24 hours a day, and people don’t have to pay for parking. Everyone wins!

Jeremy: What advice would you give to people who want to create their own web series?

Cheeks: Find a story that needs to be told and give that to people in a way that speaks to them. Care about your audience. You’re not doing this for you. A lot of artists think storytelling is about what they want to say, and to an extent, it is about personal expression. More importantly though, are the people to whom you’re giving that expression. For me, art isn’t about standing in front of people and saying, “Look what I can do.” It’s about graciously accepting the attention people choose to give me and giving them something meaningful in return.

Jeremy: Was it difficult writing two minutes episodes as opposed to longer pieces?

Cheeks: No, I find it easier. Knowing exactly what information needs to be conveyed in each episode helps clarify what your story is about and doesn’t let you pander. I like strict guidelines. They generate more creativity.

Jeremy: Do you own any yard gnomes?

Cheeks: I don’t, though I did recently purchase a yard St. Francis. I’m not Catholic, I just like what he’s all about.

Jeremy: Who is Brad Bell and how does he differ from Cheeks?

Cheeks: Well, in truth, I think Brad Bell is the alter ego. We all learn how to function in society; how to be polite, how to sit at the table, how to balance a checkbook, how to conduct ourselves among others. But really, is that who any of us are? We’re all just refined versions of the primal creatures within us, putting on masks and pretending we’re all grow up. What person alive doesn’t long to break free of the constraints of daily life and live for the moment? Deep down, everyone wants to let go, have fun, and live without inhibition. That’s what Cheeks represents: me without all the learned crap in the way. One might even say, there’s a little bit of Cheeks in all of us.

Jeremy: If your life was a video game, who would the final boss be?

Cheeks: A stodgy old curmudgeon who’s forgotten how to have fun. I would defeat him with my sparkle, which would make him dance uncontrollably.

Jeremy: That I would like to see. What’s your creative process like?

Cheeks: I get sucked into a portal. My phone calls get neglected, I don’t see the sun for a few days, sometimes people think I’m dead. I have to work alone before I can bring what I have to the table for collaboration.

Jeremy:  In your opinion, are all clowns evil?

Cheeks: No, they’re just misunderstood, like Pitt Bulls and Scorpios.

Jeremy: How would you define art?

Cheeks: The indefinability of art is what makes it such …which is kind of a definition, I guess.  Ugh, this is too much thinking. Let’s dance!

And dance we did.

Want to watch Husbands the Series right now?

Here’s episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 4:

About the author: Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Cursed, Sheep and Wolves, and Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his wife, Lisa, and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic – not so much. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.

Interview with Sean Becker

Sean Becker is the co-founder of Awkward Pictures. His directing credits include The Guild, Team Unicorn, and The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour. Sean has taken time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about directing, cereal characters, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: First of all, can I have half of your sandwich?

Sean Becker: I don’t know who’s spreading this rumor that I have a sandwich on me at all times. It really needs to stop.

Jeremy: Easier said than done, Sean. In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A?

Sean: In Orange County there’s an area that has both in the same parking lot. That one.

Jeremy: Which do you enjoy most? Writing, directing, editing?

Sean: Directing. I’ve really enjoyed taking material that someone else has written and put my own spin on it. Recently I’ve actually been trying to get away from editing so I can get another editor to put an additional spin on it as well. Usually when I edit something I’ve directed, I’ll get to a point where I can’t tell if it’s good anymore because I’ve been so immersed in it so it’s been nice to step away and let someone else with fresh eyes work on it for a while. Then it’s easier to go back and know immediately what needs to be done, plus it gives the editor a chance to get creative and implement their own ideas, which adds to the overall collaboration and results in a better end product.

Jeremy: Torengos or Pringles?

Sean: Torengos! Why aren’t those made anymore? Does anyone even know what I am talking about?!

Jeremy: One thing I love about your work as a director is your sharp sense of comedic timing. Has this always come naturally to you?

Sean: I’ve always loved comedy and tend to learn from what makes me laugh and why. Regarding ‘The Guild’ I’ve been fortunate, because the timing already exists in Felicia’s scripts, I just have to make sure it’s executed properly.

Jeremy: If you were an action hero, what would your catch phrase be?

Sean: “Whoops!”

Jeremy: Can you tell us a little about your experience writing the Bladezz comic?

Sean: The Bladezz comic was a bucket list item for me. I love comic books and have been collecting them my entire life. Felicia and I both wanted this to be a loose, fun comic, that also played homage to a lot of superhero books. We both came up with the overall outline, then I wrote the first draft which Felicia then rewrote then we both did a final polish of the script. The cool part is that all artwork was sent to us for approval, so we continued to stay involved till the finished book. I really enjoyed the experience and hope I’ll be able to do it again soon.

Jeremy: If you could bring back any TV show for another season, which one would you pick?

Sean: Night Court.

Jeremy: What was your first film project about?

Sean: In college I did a mocumentary called ‘Dude, where’s my Scooter?’ It was a 30 second film, followed by a 14-minute making of video. It’s ridiculous. It’s also on youtube if anyone wants to see the reason why I decided to stop acting in my own projects.

Jeremy: What’s your doppelganger’s favorite kind of pie?

Sean: Sardine Pie. Trust me, it’s disgusting.

Jeremy: I’ll take your word for it. What were your favorite films as a kid? As an adult?

Sean: I’ve seen ‘Back to the Future’ more than any other movie. Whenever it’s on TV I have to watch it and still get really anxious towards the end, wondering if Marty’s gonna make it or not. I don’t know if that’s a sign of a great movie or a serious lack of long term memory. I didn’t really answer this question, but I will go on and on about my favorite movies, so I’m saving us all some time here.

Jeremy: Do you tend to feel worse when a lovable animal dies in a movie, or a human character?

Sean: Transformer.

Jeremy: If a mime falls in the forest, does he make a sound?

Sean: No, but it’s mildly entertaining and irritating at the same time.

Jeremy: Do you think online videos and web series will one day replace television?

Sean: To me that’s like saying, “Do you think TV will replace movies?”, to which my answer is no. I believe online video and webseries have the potential to be taken as seriously as TV, but will still exist as its own separate format. We’ve seen integration between the two (webseries that have gone to TV/TV available online/TV shows about online content/etc.) but I don’t view that as signs of a replacement.

Jeremy: Would you rather travel into the past or the future?

Sean: I would rather travel to the future so I can find out how many more changes were made to the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy before it officially became a reboot of the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy.

Jeremy: If all the cereal characters were fighting in a battle royale, who would win and why?

Sean: Sugar Bear would maul the shit out of everyone.

Jeremy: That he would. What advice would you give to people who want to create their own web series?

Sean: Be open to criticism. Show your webseries around to people whose opinions you respect and get feedback. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make any changes, but you’ll have the opportunity to do so while you still can instead of receiving that criticism after it’s already been released.

Jeremy: Your favorite moment so far as a director?

Sean: Directing Neil Gaiman during this season of ‘The Guild’. I was actually star struck when he arrived on set, but was able to keep it together until we finished shooting. After that I fanboyed out by talking to him about his work on Batman and Sandman. He was incredibly nice to everyone and did an excellent job acting in his scene with Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh).

Jeremy: What’s your ultimate kryptonite?

Sean: That in-n-out/chick-fil-a parking lot. Also a bullet.

Jeremy: What product would you most want to be a spokesperson for?

Sean: That in-n-out/chick-fil-a parking lot.

Jeremy: What can you tell us about your current projects?

Sean: As I’m writing this, I’m also putting the final touches on the season 5 finale of ‘The Guild’. I’m also working during the day as a consulting producer on a show for Fearnet, which is currently shooting until the end of October. I’m hoping after that, I’ll be able to spend the rest of 2011 on season 2 of ‘The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour’, which has been funded through Kickstarter by fans of season 1.

Jeremy: What superpower would you want the least?

Sean: Whatever Aquaman does.

Thank you, Sean!

About the author: Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Cursed, Sheep and Wolves, and Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his wife, Lisa, and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic – not so much. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.