Today, I’m interviewing one of the funniest authors I know, Stuart R. West. He can write straight-up serious horror fiction with the best of them, and he can also write dark comedy when the comedian takes over. West talks about his latest novel, Demon with a Comb Over, as well as shares some of his background on writing.
BM: Stuart, welcome to my blog.
SRW: Thanks for having me, Brian! I’ll try not to embarrass you too much.
BM: Okay, let’s start with your latest book right out of the gate. Demon with a Comb Over just released. What’s it about?
SRW: Demon with a Comb-Over is pretty much what the title implies. (But not about Donald Trump; close, but not quite). A fair (at best), struggling (too put it kindly) Kansas City stand-up comedian, Charlie Broadmoor, makes the mistake of heckling a man with a comb-over. Who turns out to be a demon, Kobal. A demon without a sense of humor. After that, the demon’s hell-bent on destroying Charlie and those he loves. Black humor and horror collide! Chaos ensues!
BM: How did you come up with the main character, Charlie Broadmoor?
SRW: Ah, Charlie’s kind of my surrogate, I suppose. I even wrote his physical characteristics to resemble me. Our families are similar, the divorce situation very close, the relationship I had with my daughter right on the nose. I even tried my hand at stand-up comedy years ago. Crashed and burned! (So, um, now I’m a writer). Strangely enough, given the subject matter, it’s my most autobiographical book. Except of course, I haven’t encountered an angry demon. Not that I know of.
BM: The title of your new book is hilarious. What made you decide to mix horror and humor?
SRW: Honestly, Brian, it didn’t truly start out that way. It began straight-up horror. But once I got into the rhythm of things, the rat-tat-tat neo noir (and noir tough guy dialogue can be very similar to one-liners), the bizarre characters, the annoying angels, the comedy setting…I soon realized horror mixed with humor was the only possible outcome for the book.
BM: I’m a fan of dark comedy myself, so I’m curious to see how Charlie deals with this relentless demon. I’ve read your blog and you’re very funny. Are you a stand-up comedian yourself?
SRW: Well, thanks, Brian. (How ‘bout writing my wife and telling her you think I’m funny? Talk about a tough crowd.)
BM: I just might do that. I know we writers could use all the support we can get.
SRW: As I mentioned earlier, I tried it once. Didn’t take. Maybe a “failed stand-up comedian?” One step worse than my character, Charlie.
BM: On your blog, I noticed that you use humor in marketing your books. You describe Zombie Rapture as “Dark humor. Love in the Year of the Zombie” and Godland as “More fun than going to the dentist.” Do you mostly write books with humor or do you have some that are straight-up serious?
SRW: I’m afraid this is gonna be a long-winded answer. But if everyone imagines Morgan Freeman narrating, it’ll be less painful.
First of all, the marketing…like many writers, I loathe self-promotion. I’d rather be writing. But it’s a necessary beast.
BM: I feel the same way about self-promotion. I’d rather write and leave marketing to the publisher. However, today’s publishers rely on their writers to promote their own books. You take a clever approach.
SRW: I’m just trying to make it interesting for myself. Although, I’m probably not doing myself any favors.
Some of my books are very serious: Godland is a pretty straight-up, completely dysfunctional family horror thriller. Ghosts of Gannaway is my historical ghost saga detailing many social issues of the ‘30’s in a mining town. But there are a few amusing (I hope) characters popping up in even those.
I like to mix genres, make it different. And humor sort of just rears up on occasion. But most of my humor is character or situation based, not one-liners. Sort of like life. As we all do, I run into some of the most absurd characters and situations. And I think my books reflect life in that sense.
Actually, I’ve only published one straight-forward comedy: Bad Day in a Banana Hammock, a light mystery about a vapid male stripper who wakes up with no memory, no clothes and in bed next to an older, dead man. He spends the entire book trying to defend his heterosexuality first and foremost. Proving his innocence is secondary to him.
BM: Bad Day in a Banana Hammock sounds similar to my days being a male stripper. Only I woke up in bed with an Orangutan. Moving on... So, how did you get started writing?
SRW: Well, I failed at stand-up comedy, playing in an alternative/performance art band, corporate America, the graphic arts…I thought, “huh, why not try writing?”
BM: Yes, becoming a writer seems a destined occupation for us Corporate America dropouts. Being an author is definitely a fun job that’s creatively rewarding. It would be nice if the career came with health insurance and a pension plan.
Let’s talk about writing a manuscript. Do you outline or just start writing and wing it?
SRW: Wing it, most definitely. Usually they come together pretty much on their own (although at times the books don’t end where I thought they might). The only exception was Ghosts of Gannaway, the hardest to write book I’ve experienced. The research alone took nearly six months! Never, ever, ever again!
BM: I pretty much wing it myself. I’ve tried outlining and it just hasn’t worked for me. Can you offer any advice to other writers?
SRW: Drink heavily. Find an understanding companion. Most importantly, forget those starry eyed notions of big bucks and just write for the love of writing. It’ll show in your books.
BM: Sound advice, especially finding an understanding companion. Writing for the love of it is most important for me. What is your writing schedule like? What’s a typical day like for writing?
SRW: I usually try and write about four hours, three to four days a week. Until the Carpal Tunnel starts hollering.
BM: I like to write early in the mornings, anywhere from four to six hours. If I’m on a role, I’ll come back and write a couple more hours after lunch.
Okay, Stuart, now that Demon with a Comb Over is finally published, describe your next book project.
BM: Your next book sounds like a fun one. Where can people find your books?
SRW: Best place to start is my Amazon author’s page: Stuart R. West Amazon Page.
Available at Amazon
Stuart. R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It's a curse because...well, it's Kansas. But it's great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his work. Call it “Kansas Noir”. Stuart writes thrillers tinged with horror and horror tinged with thriller, both for adult and young adult audiences. Stuart spent 25 years in the corporate sector and now writes full time. He’s married to a professor of pharmacy and has a 22 year old daughter who’s still deciding what to do with her life. But that’s okay. It took him twenty-five years to figure that out.
Twitter: @StuartRWestEMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org