Column: Innsmouth Intank: Interview: Steven Roy

At the Innsmouth Inktank, we look at all manner of squamous and meandering musings for the literati of Innsmouth and beyond.

Today, we interview writer Steven Roy, who focuses on novels and screenwriting. He’s a lifelong fan of everything Lovecraftian. You can read some of his screenplays and stories for free at his website: www.professional-liar.com. This summer, he’s been running a Kickstarter for his latest novel, Black Redneck vs. Space Zombies at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1385686789/black-redneck-vs-space-zombies.

We had a chance to catch up with him to talk about how he got his start, among other twisted things.

IFP: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself? How did you get your start?

SR: I’m a writer of novels and screenplays. So far in my career, I’ve had more success on the screenwriting side of things, having optioned two different screenplays. Unfortunately, neither script was never made into a movie, but the good news is everyone can read the scripts for free at my site: www.professional-liar.com.

I got my start at a very young age, probably around four years old, when I told my family that I was actually a mad scientist and my best friend was Godzilla. At first, this was adorable, but, with age and more complex, believable lies (No one bought that Godzilla thing), my family became concerned about my grip on reality. I quickly came to realize you had to preface stories with “I made this up.” Otherwise, it’s a trip to the psychologist.

Try as they might to stop my storytelling (compulsive lying), it continued into my teenage years, in which I would convince my classmates that many of the abandoned houses around the small town in Mississippi where I grew up were haunted. These hauntings were caused by a variety of reasons, ranging from Satanic ceremony and suicide, to the birth of stillborn twins (You can still hear the mother weeping). Yes, in a few short months, Picayune, Mississippi went from being a quiet little town to a hotbed of supernatural activity.

Eventually, I escaped Picayune, Mississippi. As a young man living in New Orleans, I found my storytelling was stifled by the real life adventures the city offered, but, still at quiet times, I would tell people horrifying stories over cheap drinks and they would say, “You should write that down.”

It wasn’t until I was 25 that I gave it a try and it turned out writing was very hard. I went back to college and studied literature, and read my eyes out. I’ve just been working on the craft ever since, but I’ve never given up the idea that writing is just telling lies. What is a fiction writer if not a professional liar?

IFP: Was your family supportive of your becoming a writer? Have they gotten freaked out by the directions you’ve taken since?

SR: All jokes aside, my family has always been supportive, though I can’t say that they “get it.” I grew up on a small farm in Mississippi, so not a lot of people there are big into Cosmic Horror.

They were never freaked out by my decision to become a writer. It was mostly expected and I think they were relieved that I didn’t go with my first choice, Mad Scientist.

IFP: Who are some of the first artists and community members who helped you along the way?

SR: There have been so many who have helped along that way. Two professors of mine in particular really put in some time to push my writing to the next level, and one of the directors who optioned one of my screenplays not only gave me a chance and some money, but taught me a lot about how to tell a story visually.

But, while these people have been of the utmost importance, it is really the readers and those early people who listened to my stories with wonder and fear that made me crave telling stories. It is a way for countless people to share extraordinary experiences and transcend the mundane. I think that’s the coolest.

IFP: So, what’s your inspiration for this latest novel?

SR: I wanted to write a creature feature, a straight-up monster attack, but I wanted to do it differently, with interesting characters and an atypical setting. So, this novel is my attempt at combining a B-movie premise with a literary novel. I’m pleased with the reaction from people who have read it. From the title, “Black Redneck vs. Space Zombies,” readers get that it’s going to contain B-movie fun, but they aren’t expecting the emotions I pack into the story. It’s a bit of a dirty trick, or, as I like to call it, a literary sneak attack, but I never had a reader complain that they got more than they expected.

IFP: Which is more Lovecraftian to you? Louisiana or Mississippi?

SR: The obvious answer is Louisiana. Everyone knows what Inspector Legrasse found in the swamps just South of New Orleans and the city is just known for Voodoo, right? But to walk around the French Quarter just makes me happy. There’s food to eat and drinks to drink (lots of drinks) and there’s just not a feeling of cosmic dread.

But Mississippi. I don’t know what people think about Mississippi, or if they think about it at all, but there are a lot of woods and it’s not the especially pretty variety. It’s pine trees. It’s briar and thorns and shadows. The climate is perfect for insects and snakes. It doesn’t make you feel at home.

If cultists really wanted to set up shop and worship the Great Old Ones, Mississippi would be the place.

IFP: What’s your favorite story from the Cthulhu mythos?

SR: Can I give you two? “At the Mountains of Madness” is just great. It looked like they were even going to make a film, but that fell through. I’m sure many of you agree with me that this is HPL’s best work. I love when the Elders dissect us back.

But there’s another story that is just great fun. That story is “The Hound.” When a story starts with grave robbing, you know it’s going to be good, and when those same grave robbers rob a ghoul’s grave, it can only get better. Is the story a bit predictable? Sure. Does it matter? Nope.

IFP: What’s an aspect of the Cthulhu mythos you consider overdone or that beginning writers don’t get quite right?

SR: I hate to say something is overused because, as soon as I do, someone will write a story that will blow my mind using that very thing, but just so I don’t totally dodge the question, please use the Necronomicon with care.

As for new writers, I would add to allow yourself to be influenced by the works of the masters but not taken over by them. Bring your own particular experiences to the genre.

IFP: If you were stuck in Innsmouth for a while, what business would you set up?

SR: The bad news is I have to start a business in Innsmouth, but the good news is that Innsmouth is big and mostly deserted. I’m thinking rent will be pretty cheap and even inbred, hybrid fish/frog people need their coffee. So, I’ll open the Esoteric Order of Caffeine and no, you can’t pay with fish.

IFP: We often talk about what gets us started as artists, but what keeps you in the arts these days?

SR: I really can’t stop. Even if one of the Great Old Ones told me I would never make a cent, I blackredneckcovercoloredfinal-w622-h350would still continue to write. There are so many things I want to try, so many worlds left to create. I’ll run out of years long before I run out of stories.

IFP: When are you most satisfied with a story?

SR: Whether it’s my own stories or something by another author, the story needs to make the reader feel something. Otherwise, even if it’s a cool idea, it will be almost immediately forgotten. But if you can make someone experience an emotion, they’ll never forget.

IFP: What’s a typical writing day, or night, like for you?

SR: I unfortunately have a day job that I have to write around. Sometimes, if it’s slow at work, I’ll do some writing on the sly, but the real work happens after I get off. I’ll go to a coffee shop and try to get in 1500 words before it’s time to sleep. Weekends are great because I can write full-time on those days and consume large amounts of coffee.

IFP: Which of your stories would you most like to see made into a film first?

SR: The novel I’m currently kickstarting, Black Redneck vs. Space Zombies, would make a great film. In fact, I almost sold it as one already, but when that fell through, I really didn’t want to leave it in the hands of others. I think it’s a fun, meaningful story, so I wanted to get it out in the world as soon as possible. So, please support my Kickstarter, or do you want the Space-Zombies to go unchecked?

About Bryan Thao Worra

Bryan Thao Worra is a Lao-American poet, short story writer, playwright and essayist. An NEA Fellow in literature, his work appears internationally in numerous anthologies, magazines and newspapers, including Bamboo Among the Oaks, Tales of the Unanticipated, Illumen, Astropoetica, Outsiders Within, Dark Wisdom, Journal of the Asian American Renaissance, and Mad Poets of Terra. He is the author of the speculative books of poetry, On the Other Side of the Eye and BARROW. You can visit him online at http://thaoworra.blogspot.com.

Bryan Thao WorraColumn: Innsmouth Intank: Interview: Steven Roy