MoreHorror Exclusive: Eric Shapiro Interviews Writer Peter Giglio

By Eric Shapiro,

Full disclosure: Peter Giglio is a friend of mine. The fact is, however, that our friendship grew as a result of our mutual respect for each other's creative work. I don't tend to get too close to people whose work I can't stand; the two things usually go hand in hand.

But not only is Giglio a killer author and screenwriter, he's also just about the hardest-working guy in genre fiction, and his output in words over the past couple of years has well surpassed my own over the past decade. Add to this the fact that he gets quality whenever he's up at bat, and we've got something of a force of nature on our hands.

I've long viewed interviews as an unsung art form, so here I am making art with Peter Giglio:

1) One thing I love about your fiction is that there's a very grounded, natural, almost plain quality to it much of the time, which makes it all the more striking when something shocking or supernatural happens. Do you attribute this to having a mix of literary and genre influences?

That has to be part of it. I’m just as comfortable reading Brian Keene or Richard Laymon as I am reading Vonnegut or Raymond Carver. I did fight my voice for a while, trying to sound more like a mid-list genre writer. But I’ve, as of late, removed that fight from my flight. My latest novella, Sunfall Manor, coming from Nightscape Press in October, is the best long-form example of my newfound confidence. So there’s an evolution thing going on. I hope. Sunfall Manor, along with short stories like “Straycation” and “Eyeballs and Assholes in El Paso” (both written with Scott Bradley), and “Cages,” a story that I’m extremely proud of and still trying to sell, mark a new period in my work. Maybe we can call it the plainsong period. Time will tell. I do feel a real Raymond Carver thing going on inside me, and I’m not sure there’s enough of that in genre fiction.

2) You're new to the game of being published, yet you already have a vast and varied body of work. Bring us up to speed on your projects and where we can find them.

June saw the release of Beyond Anon, the sequel to my first novel, Anon. I have several short stories hitting markets large and small in the next few months, most notably “Straycation” in John Skipp’s PSYCHOS anthology, a story I wrote with Scott Bradley. We get to share a TOC with Ray Bradbury, Thomas Harris, Neil Gaiman, and many other legends of the craft. My first novel with Scott Bradley, The Dark, comes out in August from Ravenous Shadows. And Sunfall Manor, a novella that subverts traditional ghost story tropes, comes out in October with an introduction from Bram Stoker Award-winning author Joe McKinney. My works can all be purchased from booksellers like Amazon and B&N Online. The PSYCHOS anthology will be available in brick and mortar stores like Barnes & Noble. In March, Etopia Press paired by vampire novella, A Spark in the Darkness, with Catherine Cavendish’s Cold Revenge. That title, Cold Sparks, is available in print and eBook, and A Spark in the Darkness continues to exist as a standalone eBookl. Etopia will also be releasing my story “Trust” as a standalone eBook in September, then the story will see print in October as part of the press’s annual dark fiction anthology.

3) What spurs you to be so productive? Describe your inner engine/muse.

There’s a cycle. I write for three months, then I edit for three months, then I repeat the process. I take notes constantly, writing down fragments of stories, but I don’t step out of line and start writing until it’s time to write. This gives me a chance to brood and construct and perfect the story in my mind. For instance, I thought about Sunfall Manor for four months before I sat down and wrote it. The writing of that novella, as a result, took four days. As for my productivity, the cycle helps push me. I know I have three months to get everything out and do it right, so I focus on my writing like it’s the only thing in the world, spending upwards of twelve hours a day doing what I do—writing, editing, revising, etc. When I edit for others, I slow down a lot. I start living life again, and I work a more respectable six to eight hours a day. Lining the projects up in advance helps me with time management. I set goals. I meet them. I don’t know how to do things any other way. When I worked in the corporate world, goals were second to nothing. I apply that same logic, though I enjoy what I’m doing so much more. The cycle also adds some variety to my process. Taking a step back from my own work to help other author’s make their work shine to its fullest potential has made me, I think, a much better writer.

4) In addition to your writing work, you're the Executive Editor at Evil Jester Press, the catalogue of which is growing in pace with your own bibliography. Tell us about The Jester and the tricks up his sleeve.

Charles Day entrusted me to the press about a year ago, and it’s been a non-stop roller coaster ride since. We have a handful of titles coming out in the next six months that I’m very excited about, and then we plan to take a little break to hone our marketing strategies. One of the things that we’ll start doing this year is press kits for our books. That advance in our strategy will start with Joe McKinney’s Inheritance in November. It’s been a learning process, and we’re still learning. Tricks? I just trust my gut. And, thank God, Charlie trusts me. Good is good. Bad is bad. Mediocre isn’t good enough. Now that we’re gaining a reputation as a press that puts out good stuff, we need to take things to the next level. We need to slow down the number of titles we release and learn how to nurture each and every one of them. We need to raise our eBook pricing to further distance ourselves from the flood of 99 cent eBooks on the market. That will happen in August. People seem to be taking us seriously, but we can lose that reputation in a heartbeat. So we will continue to be selective, if not become more selective in what we publish. We have to up our game with cover art, which I think we’re doing, not that we’ve ever been slouches in that department. And we have to make each book its own experience, not a cookie-cutter clone of our last release. We will never become a niche publisher. If the work is dark, whether its traditional horror or not, and it’s good, then it’s right up EJP’s alley. No zombie line. No vampire line. Just all forms of dark fiction co-existing as nature intended. All of our titles to this point have been soft-launched, which is common in small press circles. The benefit of this is that the books have long lives. Help! Wanted: Tales of On-the-Job Terror was our first release almost a year ago. That book has caught fire in the last couple months, becoming out bestseller. Traditional publishing houses don’t routinely experience that kind of slow build. They release something and it does what it does in the first few months, then it’s dead. You get one chance to hit the mark. Our titles, however, can be discovered anew again and again, if we keep playing our cards right. At this point, we’ve won a few big hands, but we’re not looking to push all-in just yet.

5) What do you want your readers to experience? What's an ideal takeaway from a Giglio tale?

I want them to think. I want them to be surprised. I want them to have fun. If all three things happen then I’m thrilled. Then again, I’m just thrilled when someone takes the time to read my work.

6) Your upcoming novel THE DARK was written in partnership with Scott Bradley, as was your adaptation of Joe Lansdale's THE NIGHT THEY MISSED THE HORROR SHOW. How is partnering up different from going solo? How are your Bradley pieces different from your independent ones?

Scott and I have different voices that merge very well. The resulting hybrid (which we’ve taken to calling SPBG) is its own distinct monster. You’ll see me in The Dark, and you’ll see Scott, but more frequently you’ll see us. Our collaborative process, at least from what I’ve gathered from others, is unique. We actually talk through individual lines. Hell, there are lines in The Dark that were written by both of us. Seriously. Who’s line is that? Well, in a lot of cases, it really is ours. We don’t trade chapters back and forth. I write the first draft. Scott writes the second draft. Then we write the third draft together over the phone, killing the stuff that doesn’t work, building upon the things that do. It’s a time-consuming process, but it works well.

7) I was honored to read an advance copy of your upcoming novella SUNFALL MANOR, which had a hypnotic, brain-chemistry-altering effect on me. Are you interested in altered states of consciousness? Can you share any personal experiences in this regard?

Wow! I’m very interested in having that kind of influence. I strive for it. My favorite author is Philip K. Dick, so that should tell you something. I love surreal territory that’s grounded to something familiar. PKD often created new worlds, but I like to work with the ones we already have. If I can take the reader from familiar to altered states then to discovery, I’m hitting all cylinders. Clive Barker’s Imajica and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods are good examples of the bar I constantly strive for, though I try to accomplish the same effects while employing Carveresque concision.

8) What will they say about your work in 50 years? Good, bad, and/or indifferent.

If they’re talking about my work in 50 years, good or bad, then I’ve won. We’ll have to see how the next couple decades go for me before I’m willing to speculate. If I continued to evolve as a writer, I think the verdict will be good. If I get comfortable at any point, it might get a little dodgy for me.

9) Your novella BALANCE, for which I wrote the introduction, features the innovation of framing the action from the zombies' point-of-view at times, to frightening and often hilarious effect. How did you get yourself into this mindset, short of removing your own brain?

I just went for it, Eric. I honestly didn’t think it would work, but I wanted to offer something to the subgenre that was different. It started as a short story. The short story worked, but it needed more, so I engineered the novella in reverse. It’s far from perfect, but I think Balance is pretty damn sweet.

Thanks for the interview, E. I enjoyed it! =)

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