Five Things Friday with Author J.D. Graves

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interview victim is J.D. Graves, author, playwright, and editor of the EconoClash Review. (Careful not to contaminate the crime scene as you leave!)

Willow Croft: As a playwright, you’ve probably heard the term “the show must go on” more times than you can count, but in a wildly improbable scenario of your darkest imaginings, what could prevent a show from actually going up?

J.D. Graves: Actors need an audience and will do anything to make sure their needs are met. I’ve seen shows go on even after the power went out and the actors took it to the parking lot when they realized they didn’t have enough flashlights. I’ve produced shows where we met only once a week over four months. It was quite a rehearsal process that I would never attempt again…until the next time it is necessary. A terrorist attack seems to be the only thing that can stop a performance as it has happened before. In my darkest imaginings I would witness it happen in person and then the Russians would pump in the toxic gas and kill everyone including those patrons who couldn’t afford good seats. I’d be in the nose bleeds with them trying to keep my eye jelly from leaking onto my good shirt. If I survived the ordeal I’d need the shirt for work the next day.

Willow Croft: What’s the most bizarre situation you’ve found yourself in, in real life?

J.D. Graves: Do you like Hibachi? I love Hibachi it’s not just a meal it’s also a show that’s well paced and fulfilling at the end. Better than most dinner theatre I’ve suffered through. It’s simple and uncomplicated which is the opposite of my love-life over a decade ago before the blessing of children forced me to be a grown-up. Once took an ex-GF, her mom and family out to a Hibachi dinner. We were celebrating the exciting news that we were going to be parents despite officially ending our relationship (guess it was only on a hiatus for the end of summer) Stuff happens. We took up eight chairs in total. There were four seats at the grill left open. Everything was going great until a pair of couples took the empty chairs. And as luck would dictate It was my other exGF (the one I had just broken up with by telling her I’d tin-roof rusted the girl I’d broken up with in July before beginning our new relationship) her two parents and her new date. Did I tell you how much I love Hibachi? That night while ex ex GF watched the chef do spatula tricks and onion volcanoes current ex GF sat across from me. She made a big production of actively ignoring me and I tried to do the same without all the razzmatazz and pointed barbs. While she lavished attention on her new dude and his thinning hair and double chins (rebounds are what they are although I’m sure he treated her nice) things just kept getting weirder as dinner cooked in front of us. It’s tough to love someone who doesn’t love you. I was reaping what I sowed that night as far as interpersonal romantic entanglements go. My date knew the chef and they kept asking about each other’s friends and divulging personal anecdotes that made the simmering grill even hotter. Maybe they were dating too before one cold night in November, I made a phone call and the world that existed changed forever. It was a fitting metaphor for my life at that time. Chef asked my date why she hadn’t been over at such and such’s place and she blurted out “well…I got pregnant.” This caused the other exGF to laugry (cry a laugh) loud as she possibly could. She sat there for a moment and took one last look at me. It was brief, of course, but in that moment I felt the sting of the jealousy-rage-heartache trifecta. She bit her lip and turned to her date and said excuse me. She made no eye contact with anyone. New Dude said okay but didn’t cease chowing down on the cubes of grilled steak and egg fried rice and didn’t watch her leave, but I did. Shoulders curled, head down, feet propelling her out of the terrible situation. My date looked at me and asked, “Do you know her?” I shook my head and ordered a double cape-cod. Drank it and ordered another. After the second drink the exGF mother excused herself to check on her daughter. Neither returned for the duration of the meal. And everyone else took their time enjoying their dinner oblivious to the awkward tension. Meanwhile. I felt like the lobster cooking in my own shell. Never been more relieved to pay a check in all my life. I‘m married to a different lady altogether now. A wonderful woman who doesn’t put up with my crap. And we love Hibachi together. I have other bizarre stories but this one has food in it.

Willow Croft: Is there any place you’ve visited that would be the perfect setting for a noir/pulp tale? (Would it be Ohio? *laugh*)

J.D. Graves: Despite being a lifelong Browns backer I’ve never been to the buckeye state. I believe the best noir locations to be those that come across as squeaky clean. (Schools, churches, etc) this would make the impending doom of a noir story more compelling because it goes against expectations.

Willow Croft: What classic pulp-fiction-inspired dish would you most want to eat?

J.D. Graves: I’d like to try a Red Harvest. Continental Op on the side. And if I could get an extra helping of Cogan’s Trade that’d be great.

Willow Croft: You’re trying to solve a heinous crime. Quick, who would you pick to be your detecting sidekick (real or fictional)? Alternatively, who would be the dastardly adversary you’d like match wits with?

J.D. Graves: I’d pick my son because his eye for detail far exceeds my own. Our adversary would be the man I used to be in my mid-twenties he was shallow and self-destructive. And maybe John Wilkes Booth. What can I say? I have a special place in my heart for theatre people who make poor decisions.

Track down J.D. Graves in one of his internet hideaways:

https://www.econoclash.com/

https://twitter.com/JDGravesWriter

https://horrortree.com/the-horror-tree-presents-an-interview-with-j-d-graves-pushing-the-boundaries-with-econoclash/

Wednesday’s Book Look–Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction

I’ve been a little off-kilter lately. First the time change, and now temperatures are rising, and it seems winter has left. While I like all things nature-related, winter and autumn are my favourite seasons.

I miss cold, crisp days, and walking in the snow, and eating dinner when it’s actually dark out.

And so it was chillingly comforting when I read Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction.

The characters were like the voices of friends, by virtue of their shared experiences that were revealed in many of the stories.

Yes, the content was dark, but it also felt like some mysterious, imagined presence had appeared, wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, and whispered to me “you are not alone”.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been a little discombobulated lately. Reading this collection of stories was not only a haunting experience, but a visceral one as well.

Sure, I could talk a lot more about this anthology. But it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge, because my readerly experience went deep. And I’d rather listen, anyway. Listen to all the authors’ voices, as they tell their stories. Stories that remind me that I’m not so alone, after all.

Special thanks to Editor Rebecca Rowland for the advance reader’s copy.

You can dig up a copy for yourself when it releases June 1: https://rowlandbooks.com/unburied. Because, admit it, we could all use a little less “alone time” and a little more community, about now.

Am I right, or am I right?

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Rebecca Rowland

Next up in the “Five Things Friday”  interview: Horror Author (and Animal Advocate!) Rebecca Rowland! (And she’s an editor, too!)

Willow Croft: In your Ginger Nuts of Horror interview (https://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/bits-and-pieces-an-interview-with-michael-aloisi-and-rebecca-rowland), you make a passing reference to a roller derby jammer. Do you have a favorite roller derby team? And/or, if you were a roller derby jammer/athlete, what would your roller derby skater name be?

Rebecca Rowland: What a fantastic question! The team I have gone to see most often is the Western Mass Destruction (WMDs), and two years ago, I started putting their try-out dates on my calendar. (https://www.pioneervalleyrollerderby.com/teams/western-mass-destruction/) Then, CoVid hit, and well, we all know how that sentence ends. New England has mostly flat-track derby, so it’s a smidge tamer than the derbies in the Midwest or South, but the Northern women still bring it. The sport is a lot like rugby in the sense that it takes a lot of bravery to put your body out there for guaranteed bruises and scrapes, but as I have no desire to jump out of a plane or bungee jump off of…well, anything, I suppose this would be my adrenaline outlet. And my derby name is Rita Slayworth, of course!

Willow Croft: Somewhere in your corner of the virtual world, you mention that you go travelling at times. And that you count Flannery O’Connor as one of your favorite authors/key literary influences. Have you been to the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home Museum (It’s in Savannah, Georgia, and it’s awesome!) or do you have another author/literary historic site that you’ve visited that you enjoyed?

Rebecca Rowland: Yes, I have visited! It’s funny: I traveled to Savannah for the first time during one of the hottest summers up here in New England. I went to Georgia in July and my weather app listed the temperature as “feels like 106.” I know it gets that hot in the Southwest, but I’ve been to Las Vegas in the summer: the heat in the South is a completely different world! It truly felt like I was walking through soup, but everything about the city: the O’Connor museum, the riverfront, the people, the food—it was all so beautiful and interesting that the weather didn’t bother me. And the bonus was, when I returned home, our “heat wave” here felt refreshing!
You and I have exchanged our frustrations with being grounded these past months. I love traveling and normally try to venture somewhere a good distance away two or three times a year. Every place I visit, I make it a point to see a famous author’s homestead or museum. I drank a shot of Wild Turkey outside of Hunter S. Thompson’s former Kentucky home (much to the amusement of the neighbor, who told us that he sees quite a few tourists do the same), stood on the second-floor balcony of the courtroom in the To Kill a Mockingbird museum in Alabama and imagined Atticus Finch walking by below, pet the ubiquitous feline residents of Hemingway’s estate in Key West, and wrapped my arms around Poe’s gravestone in Maryland. However, one of the coolest literary places I’ve been, I have to say, is right in my backyard: The House of Seven Gables in Salem is right on the waterfront and it features a hidden staircase that tourists can climb. That architectural detail didn’t appear in Hawthorne’s novel, but it’s a fun experience to wiggle up anyway!

(Interview resumes after the photos–Willow Croft)

MonroeCourthouseRR
Rebecca Rowland sitting in the galley of the courthouse in the Monroe County Museum, Alabama https://www.monroecountymuseum.org
HemingwayRR
Rebecca Rowland at the Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, petting one of the famous cats https://www.hemingwayhome.com
PoeRR
Poe’s original burial site, Baltimore https://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegravd.htm
SevenGablesRR
A photo of The House of Seven Gables, Salem, MA https://www.salem.org (Photo taken by C. Grygorcewicz)

Willow Croft: One of your guest blogs is titled “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste: Insanity as a Horror Trope”. (https://ninasoden.com/2020/07/21/the-horrors-hiding-in-plain-sight-by-rebecca-rowland/) As a lighter spin-off of that post, what is the vilest foodstuff you’ve ever eaten? What’s something you’ve sampled, food-wise, that you would never eat again?

Rebecca Rowland: I have been a vegetarian for almost my entire adult life, so I do have to say, the few times I have eaten meat haven’t been the most…pleasant ones for me. I’m always up to try new things, though, and one experience in particular sticks out. I was in my early twenties and was dating someone who wanted to take me for sushi. I had never tried it, so I ordered the sampler plate. I ate the tuna. I ate the mackerel. I ate the yellowtail. I ate the cucumber roll (and wondered why all sushi couldn’t just taste like that). They all went down fine, and I continued through the plate. The final piece was salmon. I wasn’t loving the experience of eating sushi, but I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m not sure what it was: the taste, the texture, or the color, but after swallowing the salmon, I nearly projectile vomited. It took everything in my power to keep the food down. Since then, I can barely look at a plate of sushi without feeling a bit queasy. But at least I can say, I tried it.

Willow Croft: When I read through your guest blog posts and interviews, I saw a mention of events and happenings in the real world that you draw from to create your horror—where writing horror acts as a catharsis to those tragic events (https://transmundanepressblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/should-writers-write-what-they-know-by-rebecca-rowland/). I know, personally, that writing darker stories is beneficial to coping with things out of one’s control, but that I also have to take a break from it (like, I can’t watch gut-wrenching TV/movie dramas). So how do you take a break from the darkness within, and in the real world? What are some of your favorite non-horror books and TV shows, or other pastimes you take part in?

Rebecca Rowland: I’m a fan of edgy comedies and crime shows. I loved Fleabag, Schitt’s Creek, and Shameless, and right now, I’m catching up on Flack and am excited to start the new season of City on a Hill (because…Boston, Kevin Bacon in a bad porn mustache, and early 1990s hair and fashion: what’s not to love?). But there is one other television staple that is my guilty pleasure: I will not mention which author this is, but a fellow horror writer and I are die-hard fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We watch it together every Friday night when a season is airing. The show is beautiful and bright and juicy and creative, and it never fails to take my mind off of anything that might be plaguing me.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, do you have pets [or a beloved plant(s)]? Who are your animal companions, and do they help or hinder your writing?

Rebecca Rowland: (Sigh) This pulls at my heart-strings a bit. I have always had a cat companion; at one time, I had five living with me: all rescues. People would tease me about being a “cat lady” constantly, but now that I’ve had to say goodbye to all but one of them in the past decade, I think, what was missing in those people’s hearts that they thought it was silly or crazy of me to share my life with animals? I can’t say any of my four-legged friends have been particular helpful in my writing, however; even as I write this, my lone survivor has pushed his way onto my lap and is trying to rub the keyboard. However, I think it’s imperative that writers have someone to care for, whether it’s a pet, or a child, or a special partner. Writing, at its bones, is about connecting. We don’t write and shove our stories under the rug; we write and want others to read and feel. Writers who have never truly loved someone or something…their readers can sense it in their work. The stories are missing something. Even if the tale is a gory slasher or a science fiction set in a sterile, metallic world, if the story lacks that ingredient, readers don’t have the essential piece needed to empathize with the characters.
Also, I am going to take this moment to climb up on my little soapbox and ask readers to spay and neuter their pets and to adopt shelter pets! Mine have been sources of true joy for me…and so in that sense, I guess they have been a help to me in my writing after all.

Books and short stories that Rebecca Rowland has coming up/out:

The Half That You See (anthology, edited), released March 15
“Thug,” short story premiering in the Australian literary magazine Curiouser, April 10
“The View Master,” short story written with Pieces collaborator Michael Aloisi, releasing on Kindle April 21
Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction (anthology, edited), releasing June 1
Visit RowlandBooks.com for all the info, and follow her on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books for, as she puts it “horror recommendations and random ridiculousness.” https://www.instagram.com/Rebecca_Rowland_Books/

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Stay tuned for my “Book Look” of Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction when the ARC gets “unburied” from my to-read pile! “Unburied”–get it? *nerdy laugh*