Friday, January 4, 2013

STC in the House!: An interview with Shane T. Cartledge

Today's guest is Shane T. Cartledge, author of House Hunter.

How did you get involved in the Bizarro movement? 
Anyone who's a part of the Bizarro community will know how supportive these guys are. They genuinely want to reach out to new fans and new writers. I was a bit of both. I read a few Bizarro books, mentioned them a bit on facebook. I put book covers up as my profile pictures to show people what I was reading. I started getting friend requests from people like Carlton Mellick and Jordan Krall. From there, I read more, got into writing weirder stuff and read up about the New Bizarro Author Series on the Eraserhead Press website. And the more I read, the more I wanted to get in touch with authors. Part of me knew it was a business thing, getting to know people in the industry, but mostly, I've just enjoyed getting to know some fantastic people and read some entertaining books. It started around November/December 2010, I think, but it wasn't until November 2012 at BizarroCon that I got to meet a lot of these people face-to-face for the first time.

Tell us about House Hunter. 
It's an epic action/adventure fantasy that's got all the action and none of the long-winding nonsense of epic action/adventure fantasies. It's about a world where houses are living creatures that grow up in the wild and are domesticated by house hunters before they settle down in towns and cities. It's about a young woman who is struggling to make ends meet while the world around her crumbles. It's about house fights and legendary castles and epic battles. It's about being fun and crazy and weird and entertaining.

I had a Labyrinth vibe while reading House Hunter.  Are you a fan of that awesome movie starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly? 
As much as I would love to say yes, I can't. As much as I'd love to be a film buff, I'm not. I would be the worst film buff ever. I love movies, but I just haven't seen any of the films that I should have. Labyrinth was a little before my time, so I can't recall ever watching it. Maybe as a really young child, but I can't remember. I'm a fan of David Bowie, and I'm a fan of labyrinths, yet somehow I haven't seen the two intersect. I'm a fan of Pan's Labyrinth, though.

I already know about this since I was also in the contest but tell us about Thorquake
Thorquake was a short story I wrote for a Bizarro fanfiction competition. It was based around James Steele's "Felix and the Sacred Thor". The story was set in a hypothetical real world where the Bizarro scene was massive and BizarroCon was roughly the equivalent to something like ComiCon. It blended James' story with Jeff Burk's pop-culture novel "Shatnerquake", and just went nuts. It was a lot of fun to write, considering I was working with fictional characters and fictionalised versions of real people I'd never met. I treated it like a fanfiction send-up, and it worked out great. The year after, I wrote another Bizarro fanfiction for Spike Marlowe's "Placenta of Love". That one was called Plaception, and it was set in her theme park world and took her characters on an Inception-themed ride. Now that I've got my own Bizarro book out, I'd like to run my own fanfiction competition at some point during the year.

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer? 
I would probably have to say the H.P. Lovecraft short, "The Call of Cthulhu". I was reading some of his work in my last year of high school, and in my gap year I started writing to pass the time. The stuff I wrote back then were pulpy gothic horror stories that tried to imitate his style. So that would have to be my most obvious influence. I'm not sure if there was anything before that that may have got me thinking about writing. I read Fight Club a couple of years later, when I was studying creative writing at uni, and that had a massive impact on my writing too. I guess that book would have had more of an influence in a professional "maybe I could do this as a career" sort of way.

Who would you say your influences are?
Neil Gaiman as an author (although I've only read American Gods), and as a public personality. I like the way he approaches folklore and fantasy from a gritty, modernised perspective. Cameron Pierce, for being fantastically strange. D. Harlan Wilson, for fucking with the rules. Carlton Mellick has influenced me a lot lately, for his limitless creativity. I'm also a bit of a manga/anime fan. Tsutomu Nihei is a big influence there, for his grand designs and fantastically sublime worlds that are exposed through his sprawling, chaotic storytelling. It's vast, sparse, and lightning fast. Hayao Miyazaki, for his beautiful films, but also for his apocalyptic manga, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I could go on...

Superman or Batman? 
Duh, Batman. Superman is boring. Super strong, super fast, AND he has a chiselled chin? I like my superheroes to have flaws.

What's your favorite book?
Just one? I'd have to go with American Gods.

Who's your favorite author?
That's a tough one. It's likely to change depending on what I'm feeling at any one point in time. I'll go with Cameron Pierce for now.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
I'd probably have to call it a tie between Shane Jones' "Light Boxes" and Forrest Armstrong's "The Deadheart Shelters".

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Practice helps you to improve, so a lot of people say to just write. Write as much as you can. I'd like to add to that, you need to get your writing out there, too. Feedback helps you evaluate just how far you've improved. I started off posting stories on forums and getting feedback that way, before I started sending my writing elsewhere, doing workshops, that sort of thing. Criticism is a most valuable asset. Sometimes you need to hear things out loud what you kind of knew all along. And, of course, it helps to know how to take criticism. You don't reject it because people fail to see your perspective, nor do you blindly swallow what others have to say. Weigh up their arguments. If they say something's wrong, that means something's probably wrong. They may be wrong when they point out where the problem is, but that part is for you to figure out. Know your stories and know your audience. And it doesn't hurt to give a little feedback in return. But if all else fails, just relax and write for the fun of it.

What's next for Shane Cartledge? 
This year is all about House Hunter. I'm trying to prove my worth to the publisher with this book, so I'm trying to put my book out there and reach markets outside the usual Bizarro audience. I'm also hoping to pump out short stories throughout the year, while I figure out what I'll be doing for my next book. I've got a lot of ideas kicking around as to what that book might be, and I've had a few people hassling me over one novel idea they want me to work on (which is nice, in a way, to have people wanting me to write more). I'm working on a short story at the moment that I think the Bizarro crowd will love. It's about a murder investigation that takes place in a prison in a surreal utopian society.

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