Robert R. Best, author of All Kinds of Things Kill and the zombie-themed Memorial trilogy, sat down with Six Demon Bag to discuss writing, characters, and why Demon Duct Tape is the best.
Hi Robert and thanks for stopping by 6 Demon Bag. We’ll be kicking off the festivities with our standard opening question, which you can interpret and answer however you please: if you were in possession of a 6 Demon Bag, what would yours contain?
Five demons and a big roll of Demon Duct Tape (tm) to keep them secure. It's pricey, but worth it because of all the sigils etched into the glue.
With that question out of the way, why don’t you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work?
Well let's see. Hi. My name is Robert R Best and I write books where horrible things happen to people. My current big project is the Memorial Trilogy, which is a zombie series. The focus is on Angie Land and her two kids. Her tough single-mom-ness and relationship with her kids is at the heart of the three books. But there's also lots of gore and zombie action. The first two books, titled Lakewood Memorial and Ashton Memorial, are available now. Book three, World Memorial ,should be out later this year.
You and I were on an author panel together at a convention back in 2010, which was an awesome experience. In this question, you’ve been invited to sit on a panel at the 6 Demon Bag World Horror Convention and Cupcake Drive. However, it is up to you to hand-pick the authors whom you’d like to share the panel with. Who would your selections be and why? (Also it should be noted that an author doesn’t necessarily have to be alive; a 6 Demon Bag is a powerful and useful tool, after all).
Hmmm. My first pick would be Jack Ketchum. He's a genius of tight,visceral horror that also develops the characters. Second I would like Edward Lee. He is great at describing violence. I always feel unworthy when I read his violent scenes. Third, and here we're going off the reservation a little, would be Kurt Vonnegut. An absolute genius and the single biggest influence on my prose style. Quick and direct. I'm nowhere near as good at it as he was, not even in the same continent, but he's who I'm emulating. Last, and here we're going way off the reservation, is Mary Gaitskill. She's probably most well known for the short story the movie"Secretary" was based on. She's a master a writing people in horrible, sometimes depraved situations but with a real sense of warmth and empathy for her characters. Look for her short story collection"Because They Wanted To" and a novel called "Two Girls Fat and Thin." Both are really good.
And one more I should mention. David Dunwoody. He's the nicest and most clever writer I know. I envy every idea he ever has.
We interrupt this interview with another standard 6 Demon question: There’s a train rocketing through the night with nearly a hundredpeople looking out the windows. The only person actually sitting in their seat is a small child who gazes unwaveringly at the floor. What is going on with these people?
The child has been possessed by a malevolent something-or-other. All the people on the train are thralls to this force and are standing guard. All over the world people have stopped mid-whatever and are staring at nothing. These are thralls also. When the train reaches its destination the destruction will begin. Can they be stopped?
What is the single, most valuable thing you’ve learned about writing and was there a particular experience which really drove this lesson home?
That you can say a lot with very little. A simple detail can say as much about a character as a whole paragraph describing their feelings. And not only that, the simple detail will often be more powerful because it's purer and more concentrated. The more words you use to describe something, the more you're watering it down.
And there was an experience that drove this home. Years ago I was writing a story for a class I was in. And I'd read some advice in abook on non-fiction writing but it’s very valuable. It ran something like this: if there's a word you can cut from a sentence and the sentence still makes sense, cut it. I tried this out on my story before I submitted it and it got a much stronger response than anything I'd written up to that point. So I always keep that idea in mind, even if I don't always live up to it.
Have you ever created a character that you utterly despised? Or do you have a soft spot for all of your characters, regardless of their flaws?
I think I have a soft spot for all of them. Or at least the ones in the novels, because I have more space to develop them. I try to think out why a person has come to this state, and then write from there. And when you do that it's hard not to empathize with them. And I like to share this information with the reader right before a character dies.
If you had to pick one piece that you’ve written to serve as a reader’s "gateway drug" to Robert R. Best, what would it be and why?
I would say Lakewood Memorial. It's the start of my zombie trilogy butit's short, fast and to the point. I tried to focus on the characters and keep the action as lean and fast as possible.
You’re the Dungeon Master and a party of adventurers entering a dimly lit room that flickers in the glow of torch light. Mounds of bones are piled upon the floor and the stench of rotting meat is so thick that it’s even seeped into the stone walls. What would you have the adventurers discover in this room?
A fair maiden who is in peril and needs help. She would beg to come into the party and I would have an elaborate and convincing backstory. And the party takes her in and thinks they've discovered the impetus for the next part of the campaign. Then several rooms later she's revealed to be a monster and attacks the party when their guard is down. She goes for the Mage first.
Okay, I’ve got to ask and tell me the truth. How many times do you introduce yourself only to have some smart-ass reply, "No, that’s wrong … the correct conjugation would be Robert Is Best"?
At least twice but less than a thousand.
Just about done now. However, are there any questions you wish Iwould’ve asked but didn’t? And feel free to provide the answer.
Six. The answer is six.
Okay, I have to go downstairs and yell at the postman for continually putting our mail in the wrong box, despite the fact that it’s clearly numbered. There’s a good chance I’ll receive a healthy dose of pepper spray and may not be back. So it’s up to you to wrap this interview up. Anything at all you want to talk about or promote is fair game;the forum is yours. Ready … GO!
Well, first off let me just say that tacos are awesome. Even a really crappy taco is still tasty, you know? Also, did you know that the wombat was the first animal to travel to space? Probably not, becauseit's not true. But you know what is true? That you can find links toall my stuff on the intertubes at http://www.robertrbest.com/!
Thanks, Mr Rose, for the opportunity to speak to your readers and I hope the postman avoids the eyes.