I’m delighted to have the awesome author Robert Devereaux on my blog this month. He’s the author of a series of very strange novels featuring Santa Claus, as well as Slaughterhouse High, Deadweight, and Walking Wounded. I first met him at World Horror in Portland where we did a panel on erotica and romance in the horror genre. I instantly found him knowledgeable and friendly; he’s also quite the novelist to boot. Check out the interview below.
LUCAS MANGUM: Your novels have appeared in what are arguably the most important horror imprints of the last 2 decades (Dell/Abyss, Leisure, Deadite). What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the genre over the years?
ROBERT DEVEREAUX I’ve fallen away from horror over the past many years. I’m grateful to have made my debut there, though I’ve been pigeonholed as a horror writer because my first published novels (not the first ones I wrote), Deadweight and Walking Wounded, clearly belong there. These days, my writerly passions take me less and less into the dark regions of the human psyche. They are in fact quite wide-ranging. I offer in evidence my Santa Claus novels which—though troubling in some passages—aren’t horror novels at all. Call them instead novels of the fantastic, if labels there must be. So in answer to your question, I’ve been paying little attention to changes in the horror genre as such and so am ill-equipped to give a useful response.
LM: Your work, particularly the Santa novels, was ahead of its time in a lot of ways. Now with the advent of Bizarro over the last decade, has it gotten easier to place pieces that are more outside-the-box with respect to genre?
RD: It has. Mainstream publishers tend to reject books that straddle genres, because they present a problem about bookstore section placement and can therefore be a hard sell from sales reps to bookstores. Two novels I had been unable to place at Dell or Leisure found a place at Deadite Press, those being Slaughterhouse High (at one time called Ice Ghoul Daze) and Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes. With the advent of e-book publishing and POD, I have also chosen to focus on self-publishing as well as small presses, and I expect to start releasing original works within a year or two on a regular basis, both fiction and non-fiction. I don’t plan to be pursuing agents or editors in the mainstream houses, preferring to focus on creating and polishing new works and bringing them to my readers straightaway, either through small presses or via a publishing company of my own.
LM: At the 2014 World Horror Con, you and I did a panel on Romance and Eroticism in Horror. What are some examples of this crossover between the erotic and the horrific which have been most effective? Why do you think horror and erotica can work so well together?
RD: What immediately springs to mind are two ghost tales, Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw and Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. Both books feature repressed female characters, whose repressions cast doubt on their perception of supernatural phenomena. In the ideal, the realm of erotic connection ought to bring out the most intimate, the most tender way two or more people can relate to one another. It’s also then a realm of potential violation of the most damaging sort, setting up vast disturbances at the intimate ground of our being.
LM: Who are some authors who inspired your earlier work? Who are some authors that continue to inspire you?
RD: For earlier works in horror, my inspirations were Stephen King, Clive Barker, and the splatterpunk authors, specifically Rex Miller, David Schow, Richard Laymon, John Skipp, and Craig Spector. But I have always loved gifted, quirky writers, so let’s add into the mix Vladimir Nabokov, Tom Robbins, John Irving, Nicholson Baker, and Terry Southern. These days, I read more non-fiction than fiction, but distinctive writing of any kind always thrills me.
LM: Do you have a favorite of all your novels?
RD: Not a favorite exactly, since all my babies come into the world as fully-limbed and perfect as I can make them. But if anyone asks which novel to begin with, I usually suggest Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grownups, a book that takes no prisoners, speaks truth about the three nocturnal creatures we allow into our homes, and pays due homage to the Greek mythology near and dear to my heart.
LM: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
RD: When receiving feedback, either in a workshop setting or from your editor, ponder the changes suggested, give them due weight, then make only those that truly resonate with your desires. Push back on changes you disagree with. Be sure—and this can be difficult—to separate sheer ego stubbornness from standing firm for the integrity of your narrative.
LM: What’s a fun, little-known fact about yourself you’d like readers to know?
RD: I am a trained clit stroker. I’ve been stroking clit for more than two years, thanks to a practice called Orgasmic Meditation. I trained in Boulder and now OM with a number of women who come to my home on a somewhat regular basis. Now, from the outside, this practice may strike one as odd and as most definitely sexual in nature. But in fact, while the stroker and strokee are playing with sexual energy, they are not “having sex” in the understood sense. The fifteen-minute practice is without a goal, beyond narrative, beyond the commercial model of male-female interaction. The partners focus on the point of connection, moment by moment. That alone. It becomes a life changer, and it becomes that in every relationship of any kind one enters into. Those interested can go to www.onetaste.us to watch a video and find out if there’s an OM community near them.