How did you get to this point? When I first heard your name, you were part of Bizarro Press and now you've got your name on the best book to feature sharks biting politicians in half.
By accident, really. When my old college buddy and I started publishing books six or seven years ago (first as Bizarro Press and later as Rooster Republic), it wasn't entirely clear what we were getting ourselves into — we just wanted to publish really weird shit and get paid for it if possible. Over the years we went from no-names to underdogs to real contenders in that scene, going on to publish Clown Tear Junkies and DangerRAMA, both of which made the final ballot for the Wonderland Book Award at BizarroCon 2014. That was the same convention where I met Christoph Paul, my coauthor on Great White House and its sequel, Billary Bites Back.
These days, I'm only peripherally involved with the Bizarro movement, Rooster Republic and its imprints (StrangeHouse and New Kink), but I still read, review, and edit a lot of Bizarro books, and I still submit things to those presses on occasion. All that said, I'm much happier as a free agent now.
What led to the collaboration between you and Christoph Paul?
As mentioned, we were at an industry event together. I was drunkenly chatting with Leza Cantoral (author of Planet Mermaid) when suddenly I felt this presence hovering nearby. I turned and there was Christoph. I think he might've been worried I was hitting on his girlfriend or something. Maybe I was; that whole weekend was kind of a blur...
Fast forward a year, and after I'd reviewed his Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks, we decided to work on a project together. That project wound up being a revised and expanded edition of the original Great White House, one of his earlier releases.
Christoph provides most of the raw materials (he's more of a Romantic in that sense) whereas I apply much of the fine tuning (taking more of a Classical approach). We seem to balance out our strengths and weaknesses in this way, just complementing the fuck out of each other's work. We forged the same kind of alliance on Billary Bites Back, which is easily three times more insane than the first book.
Is the 2016 election the biggest shit show you've ever seen?
To be honest, I don't follow the debates that close, and I absolutely refuse to engage with any media that might result in significant exposure to campaign ads. Also, I'm not on Facebook, so this spares me the reverberations of that whole echo chamber.
As I understand it, the country's in rough shape right now. People are angry all around and hardly anyone seems to have any good, workable solutions. We've sunk to some new lows as a nation in recent times, and our current political climate reflects this fact.
At the end of the day, people just need to relax and remind themselves that the Presidency isn't the most important office in the land. You don't get to be a serious contender on that level of American politics unless you've already been bought and paid for by the powers that be. It's much more important to vote for your state representatives, because these are the people who make your laws, and if enough states abolish slavery, legalize gay marriage, decriminalize drugs, etc, historically the federal government eventually follows suit.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm gonna vote for the guy or anything, but there's a perverse part of me that kinda-sorta REALLY wants to see Trump as President. If he actually does wind up being our Hitler, like SO many people are saying he will, then I guess the upshot is that we might have something resembling a modern democracy (à la Germany) before the close of the century. Sometimes, things can't get better until they get worse. Much, MUCH worse.
What was the genesis of Great White House?
Speaking for myself (Christoph might tell you something different), I have this love/hate relationship with the political sphere, which is equal parts fascinating and frustrating for me. Politically I'm very liberal, but leaning more toward the social libertarian side of things. I willingly pay my taxes, but wish more of that money was spent on things like infrastructure and social services than bank bailouts and never-ending wars. I support responsible gun ownership, but not out of some fanatical fetishization of the 2nd Amendment or anything like that. In other words, I'm neither liberal enough for the Liberals nor conservative enough for the Conservatives, and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to be doing much of anything to significantly improve the lives of average Americans. Quite to the contrary, in fact. Therefore, as a writer, feeding career politicians from both sides of the aisle to giant, ravenous sharks only seemed like the natural thing to do.
Can we expect the carnage level to get bumped up a couple notches in Great White House 2: Billary Bites Back?
Oh yes. Bet your ass.
Did you have to do much research on the politicians involved for the Great White House books? Also, you guys write a great Obama.
What's fun about lampooning these public figures is that, for many of them, we didn't even have to try. Just put them in hypothetical situations, and the walking caricatures they've already created for themselves practically write the scenes for us. Sure, it pays to know a thing or two about policy and voting records, scandals and gaffes, things of that sort, but between Christoph and myself, we already had pretty much all the material we needed.
Thank you for the compliment on our Obama, but just wait until you read our Trump.
Who would win if Hillary Clinton fought Sarah Palin in a mud-wrestling match?
Tough to say. Clinton's got some height/weight and reach on her, but Palin would probably feel more comfortable wrestling in a bikini. Hillary's a bit older, but that might only make her more wily.
Who is your favorite author?
Charles Bukowski used to tell a story about this time he'd been invited to speak to a class of freshmen English students, and he got asked who his top three authors were.
"Charles Bukowski, Charles Bukowski, and Charles Bukowski" was his answer.
Of course, I'm no Charles Bukowski, but while he IS one of my own favorites, people tend to assume things about grown men who still idolize the guy, so I should probably think of some better alternatives.
Maybe some other time.
Is there a particular book that made you want to be a writer?
I would say that both Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and the Red Night trilogy by William S. Burroughs were pretty instrumental in getting me to write my first published book, Editorial. You can definitely see the influences of both in there.
What is your favorite book of all time?
If I really had to pick just one book (or one series), I would have to say The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Never before and never since have I read anything so rich in humor and horror, myth and realism, spanning these and many other seeming opposites to create a staggering work of, well, just about everything. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but The Sandman really changed my life, and I'm not ashamed to brag that I was reading Gaiman BEFORE he went all mainstream. Not that he's bad now, or that there's anything wrong with all his YA stuff, but kids really gotta read The Sandman. That series is a fucking education on the meaning of life and the very nature of existence.
What are you reading now?
I'm catching up on my Pynchon and enjoying the underexposed/appreciated works of various indie/small press authors, including folks like Brian Alan Ellis, G. Arthur Brown, Leo X. Robertson, and Harry Whitewolf. Impatiently waiting for Jon Konrath and Douglas Hackle to put out something new.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
It is better to simply do than aspire too hard to be anything. When you "aspire" to be a writer instead of seriously just writing, you run the risk of becoming one of those writers who's more in love with the idea of being a writer than in actually finding your voice, honing your craft, etc. The best writers I've found are those who genuinely do it out of a sense of compulsion, not their aspirations for things like fame, fortune, etc.
What's next for Arthur Graham?
Now that Billary Bites Back has finally made it over the wall, it's back to the half-dozen or so stalled projects I always seem to have simmering on the back burner. Finishing up another one of my Japanese tanuki tales, the first of which was recently featured in Strange Sex 3. Beyond writing, the next big thing on the horizon for me is Days of the Dead Los Angeles (April 1-3), where Christoph and I will be promoting our Great White House series of comedy-horror novellas.
How do they cram all that Graham?
With a little patience, prep work, and lube as needed.