Nicholas Randers Interviews Nicholas Grabowsky
(The guy who interviewed me here ended up recently blacklisted by everyone involved in my genre for plagiarizing a lot of people’s stuff, including Stephen King’s. But that interview took some time to do, so I reworded his questions with my old pen name and slapped it all down on this here blog, for enquiring minds who want to know, and serves as a nifty update too.)
NR: Okay, so you were at varying times an actor, rock singer, screenwriter, evangelical preacher, book store assistant manager, phone room sales manager, door-to-door salesman, stripper, composer, drug addict, Japanese Exchange Student Coordinator, gardener, forklift driver, choir director, and were convinced you were a vampire all through elementary school. So…why the interest in the horror genre again?
NG: That’s a question I’ve tried to answer too many times, but it’s a noble one, and sometimes I try to be philosophical about it, I can tend to create these great lengthy reasons why, but really when it all boils down to it the answer is this: I just don’t know. For a lot of people, there seem to be clear reasons, and I’ve heard many times from horror authors things like “I didn’t get into horror until I was 25” or “I saw this movie when I was ten and it changed my life.” I think I was born this way. By the time I went to kindergarten I was convinced I was a vampire and chased girls at recess trying to bite them, flapping my jacket like I was flying. I would stay up late at night in my bed and pretend I was talking to Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Wile E. Coyote. I suppose, though, my dad watching those old Universal monster movies on television helped, and when I saw the Rankin/Bass classic “Mad Monster Party,” it changed my life at four years old. I could have been a normal kid, but, nope.
NR: You have been praised highly by such noted authors as Stephen King and Clive Barker, which is no small accomplishment. Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting them in person?
NG: Yes I have. I met King once around 1992 at the American Book Sellers Association convention in an Anaheim Convention Center hallway after someone told me he finished a signing there and should be headed that way on his way out. We probably spoke for about thirty seconds. Later that night, I shared a table with several literary agents and we all enjoyed King singing in his band “The Rock Bottom Remainders.” With Clive, I did a signing event the same day as he did once at Dark Delicacies in Burbank and our meeting there led to a phone call from him, a nice chat, and a handwritten letter in the mail sometime afterwards praising my work with encouraging words. In the early ‘90’s, living in Southern Cal, I attending many of his readings (as well as Dean Koontz’s, whom I often came to for good industry advice).
NR: Take a moment to tell me about your book, Pray, Serpent’s Prey.
NG: It was my first full-length novel, and my first one published. That being published got me the job doing the “Halloween IV” book, and many others. I signed with Critic’s Choice Paperbacks, who was distributed by Carol Publishing, so when its street date hit you could find it on the supermarket paperback racks almost anywhere. It was a dream come true. I started the story in my tenth grade math class when I was bored one day, and it was supposed to blossom into a Christian allegory (being that I actually preached in Baptist and Penticostal churches back then, I wasn’t allowed to write horror really). Then events happened in my life which turned me away from the church-going crowd, and I made the story darker and let loose a bit. It’s basically about a church pastor and a group of rebellious teens joining forces to defeat snake/vampire people before evil overwhelms their small Montana town.
NR: As a man who was once deeply into the church scene, were you ever surprised to find out how many churchgoers were actually into the horror genre?
NG: Back in the day I was surrounded with the belief that you had to be on fire for Jesus. I think I heard once on the news that someone took that literally with gasoline and a Bic. But the consensus was back then that if you loved the Lord, you’d avoid the things of the world…horror movies, books, heavy metal and anything related was, well…if you were caught liking them in any way, it was like being caught shooting up heroin and you’d have a lot of people praying for you and begging you to repent. I’ve known churches to boycott “The Wizard of Oz.” People can be extreme that way. I was inching my way further and further into the limelight in the church world, and I cried for the souls of friends of mine who went to the theaters to see a Halloween film. Looking back, I was also really crying on the inside, because the Lord wouldn’t let me see one myself and enjoy it. Basically, if it wasn’t about Jesus, it was sinful, and that went for the movies we watched and the books we read, the music we listened to, all that. I’d been writing all my life, but eventually I found myself writing a horror novel (“Pray Serpent’s Prey”) instead of trippy cartoony fantasy fiction with the excuse that it was a “Christian” horror novel with an allegorical theme: demons infecting a town and the town’s pastor learning to bend to God’s will in order to cast them out. No one in church thought that was a good idea. I myself never heard of a Christian horror novel, and nobody understood what I was doing. Then something in my personal life erupted and separated me from church, and I found myself at liberty to rewrite the story however way I wanted. That felt damn good. It’s funny all these years later that Christian horror has become quite common—-something that I tried to do twenty-five years ago—and I especially relate to the writers drawn towards that sub-genre. It is so cool there’s so many these days. Really, it never used to be that way.
NR: What’s your connection with Walter Koenig, ‘Chekov’ of Star Trek?
NG: I dabbled with acting around Los Angeles in the mid-‘80’s, just before I was first widely published, and made a small living for a short while as a Hollywood extra. I answered an ad in an industry newspaper for acting classes taught by Walter, auditioned, and made it into the class. I met a lot of cool people there, got to hang out at the Koenig home and attend a screening of Walter’s “Moontrap” at the Director’s Guild. He had a Science Fiction novel coming out that year and his publisher’s sister was in our class. So I talked to her about “Pray Serpent’s Prey” and sent a copy to her brother, who telephoned me a few months later with a contract offer. The rest is history. On a side note….years later, when I was well more established, I connected Walter with a publisher friend who published a version I edited of that very same Science Fiction novel, “Buck Alice and the Actor-robot.” Another Star Trek side note is I recently published Matthew Ewald’s HUMAN NATURE, and Matthew plays James T. Kirk in “Star Trek: Phase One.”
NR: Did your sister’s death have a profound effect on your outlook on life in general? On your career?
NG: Yes it did. That experience was terrible. She was abducted from her school and all of Sacramento, it seemed, was looking for her. The story was on the news all the time for awhile. It’s what made me move from Southern Cal in 1995 to be with my parents up North. The wife of one of O.J. Simpson’s attorneys offered us her services and drove us around town to investigate potential sightings, thinking she was being prostituted around. In October of that year, two kids found her body in a drainage ditch. It was so decomposed they thought she was a Halloween costume, and she had to be identified by her dental records. I was there when my parents got the phone call. The mystery of what exactly happened to her went cold case. But she was autistic, and I’ll never forget when my parents told me a Sacramento police officer’s opinion was that perhaps she fell into that ditch herself. If you want to talk traumatic events, that shook my world. But when I was in junior high, I came across my grandmother’s suicide with several margarine-sized buckets filled with her blood under her bed and blood palm prints all over the walls. My cousin died when he hooked up his chest to his guitar amplifier to hear his heartbeat right after he took a shower, and my aunt found him dead when she went to wake him up for school. The very night my parents said their goodbyes when they first moved up to Sacramento with my sister, my other grandma died in her sleep, and my aunt who lived with her died suddenly of an unforeseen blood disorder while dialing 911 soon afterwards. Has this had an effect on me? Certainly. But I was writing horror and bizarre stories all throughout and before. But I think experiencing tragedy has had a direct effect on my philosophy that writing, for whatever else it is, is therapy. It’s the best therapy I ever had. Music, too.
NR: How is Black Bed Sheet Books coming along?
NG: Black Bed Sheet Books, much like my personal career, has never taken a step backwards, always moving forward, no matter to what degree, but if you only knew the half of the obstacles I’ve overcome to maintain BBS and compare it to what BBS has accomplished for my authors as well as myself, I’m comfortable in saying it’s moved all involved a bit forward in our career goals. Now that doesn’t mean we’re all making money off of this. Financial backing and fundage is scarce and often hurts our abilities to advertise in ways that are too costly. We rely on not only the exceptional material we publish, but the ambitions and abilities of our authors to help us promote them after putting the blood sweat and tears it takes for me to package their works into impressive, sellable products that say “read me” all over them and can make an impression in the industry and broaden the author’s readership. I started BBS because I’ve seen too many authors get taken by others in this biz, and because I have a real desire to publish and invest in people who are just like me in that I strive to write for a living (in our case predominantly in the horror genre). And looking at our past year and a half I’m proud that BBS has established a solid presence in the horror community, and for some authors we have made dreams come true, put out titles to be proud of, and we do that these days better than ever, through previous trials and errors and minor flaws. I think so far BBS has published a couple dozen solid books in a year and a half, and looking back at a few of them I could’ve done far better had I published them now. BBS is a constant education for me, my living, my way of life. That sounds profound, but it’s what I chose to do. So, lately, as of this writing, I renewed some contracts, just released four exceptional Summer titles, we have awesome late Fall/Christmas titles, have a radio show and video show in the works, and are working with foreign translation rights. Last year, the P&E poll listed us as the fifth best independent publisher in the country, something like that. And we’re branching off into BBS Productions, where I hope to produce independent film somehow, and an imprint which does Children’s and cook books called BANANA PHONE BOOKS. Because of my fiance Francy’s blogtalk radio show, which is Fox affiliated, I’m doing a cook book with some cool HELL’S KITCHEN alumni.
NR: What’s the key to success in the world of publishing these days? Print media seems as though it is in a slump.
NG: A key to success is persistence. There’s no real key. There’s a combination of keys. It’s like a lock to a safe you’ve stored your success in and you don’t know the combination and you have several digits to work with. The combination works different for all of us. One digit could represent writing a good novel, another digit involving what you do with that novel, another digit can represent a balance in your personal life, another one nothing but chance –like running into someone important that leads to the right combination number clicking into place, another one representing how well you use your resources……you get the picture. You know, I think the real key to success is what you’re willing to put into it, and how well time works with you. Most people die before ever opening that safe. If you put your mind to it, you can sell a print book as much as you can a book in any format.
NR: What’s on the horizon for you right now?
NG: A radio show, blogtalk radio anyways, and directing my first feature “Cutting Edges.” Also, A SHOT IN THE DARK COMICS has out its first issue of comics inspired by the stories in my collection RED WET DIRT. A graphic novel is due soon from my “The Father Keeper” zombie novella. My book THE DOWNWARDENS is on the horizon. Maybe a Michael Myers anthology with BBS???????
NR: Any last words for your readers?
Buy BBS books and products! Support us and all indy horror, in print, on screen, on stage and in fine art and comics, and music. Peace, love, and progress to all! Inspiration & Horror, baby!