Monday, December 28, 2015

Where Are They Now? Interview With Daniel Vlasaty

by Lee Widener

I first became aware of NBAS author Daniel Vlasaty when I worked on the under-appreciated “The Bizarro Zombie Anthology That Wouldn't Die,” which also featured work from NBAS authors Dustin Reade, S.T. Cartledge, Kirk Jones, Gabino Iglesias, and myself. His tale of alien space zombies attacking a rocket ship was terrifying. His NBAS book “The Church of TV as God” with its legion of TV headed addicts is an equally terrifying work of social commentary. I recently caught up with Daniel in a secret dungeon deep beneath Santa's workshop in the North Pole.

LW: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Daniel. First off, how the hell did you get involved in Bizarro fiction?

DV: The first time I ever even heard of Bizarro Fiction was when I just happened to stumble across issue 6 of Bust Down the Doors and Eat all the Chickens (from Bizarro author and former NBAS editor Bradley Sands) at Quimby’s in Chicago. It was the cover that got me. All the eyeballs and the big ass chicken head. After that I started noticing all these weird ass books coming up on my Amazon recommendations. Carlton Mellick and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Those were the first two authors I bought. It was The Cannibals of Candyland and Angel Dust Apocalypse. And then I just got more involved through like Facebook and the internet and shit. I was still in college and my writing usually tended toward the weird so it seemed like I’d found my place.

LW: How did you end up writing a book for the NBAS?

DV: I had a bunch of short stories published in online magazines or whatever. Usually they were just flash pieces. Never over 2,000 words. And I wanted to try to write something longer. I was in one of Garrett Cook’s writing workshops and I had talked to Kevin Shamel about submitting something.

LW: Who was the editor that year?

DV: Spike Marlowe was the editor of THE CHURCH OF TV AS GOD.

LW: What was it like working with her?

DV: Spike’s awesome and working with her was great. I feel like she really got the bones of the book and helped to make it the best it could be. She was patient with me and listened to all of my anxious freak outs over individual sentences and she helped me figure that shit out. She’s a great editor. And I also hear that she may or may not be a superhero.

LW: Tell us about The Church of TV as God, your NBAS book. What was your process like, writing it?

DV: THE CHURCH OF TV AS GOD is about a dude with a TV for a head and the TV-worshipping cult that believes him to be the one to bring about the second coming of their god, The Great TV in the Sky. I started writing it as an experiment, really. I remember reading somewhere online that Carlton Mellick and Kevin Shamel and Cameron Pierce had written some of their books during marathons. And I wanted to try that. My goal was 20,000 words in 10 days. I ended up finishing the first draft of TV in 3 days. I had an office type of job at the time and I just ignored my actual duties to write the book. So in a way I was paid to write THE CHURCH OF TV AS GOD, which is kind of cool.

But then something totally shitty happened. On the very same day that I finished the first draft of my book I lost the USB flash drive thing with it saved on it. It was the only copy of the book and I hadn’t had a chance to save it anywhere else or back it up or whatever. I had to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. It kind of sucked. But I still hope to someday find that flash drive thing. I’d love to compare the two and see how the book might have turned out.

LW: Do you see people's obsession with television as dangerous?

DV: It’s funny because when I was writing THE CHURCH OF TV AS GOD I wasn’t even thinking about the obsession to TV. I was writing it more as a commentary about religion. But personally I think most TV shows are stupid and a waste of time. I have some that I like and I’ll catch them on Netflix or whatever. But for the most part I don’t have much time for TV.

LW: You mentioned taking one of Garrett's workshops. Did you find taking a workshop helped your writing, and if it did, in what ways?

DV: I know that it helped my writing. I don’t really know how but I know it did. Maybe it just showed me that there were other people, new to bizarro like me, trying to do what I was doing. I don’t know. Not long before I signed up for his workshop, I had just come off of a spell where I didn’t write a single word for like two fucking years. I was fresh out of college and I think it was a combination of disillusionment from four years of very literary-leaning writing workshops and a massively growing drug addiction. I liked Garrett’s workshop because it was just about writing. And reading the other writers’ work and giving them suggestions. There was no pretentiousness to it.

When I was in my college writing classes everyone wanted to write the next great American novel or some shit. But the problem with that was we were all like 19 and didn’t know shit about life. So we just made it up or copied Kurt Vonnegut of Chuck Palahniuk or whatever. In Garrett’s workshop we all just wanted to write weird shit and have fun. It was less academic and forced.

LW: What effect has having a book published in the NBAS series had on your life?

DV: It made me realize that there is more to being a writer than just writing. It made me realize that once the book is finished it’s only the beginning. It made me realize that I don’t know shit about promoting a book.

LW: What have you been up to since the NBAS? Any projects published since then? Anything you're working on now?

DV: Since THE CHURCH OF TV AS GOD came out I’ve had a handful of short stories and poems published, in print and online. My second book AMPHETAMINE PSYCHOSIS was published by Black Dharma Press (an imprint of Dynatox Ministries). My next book is set to come out in 2016 through All Due Respect Books. It’s called ONLY BONES. It’s a crime story set in Chicago about a bike messenger who starts working for his drug dealer to pay off a debt.

Other than that I’m working two other books – their working titles are TOO MANY DEAD MEN and NEXT ONE LAST. Also a possible sequel to ONLY BONES called NEVER CLEAN. And two comic scripts. OFFICER SEXY MAN is an ultra-violent Bizarro story that I am writing with my friend Mike Zdanowicz. And PURPLE DONKEY about a dead stripper, a crooked cop, and a sleazy strip club owner.

LW: Wow! You're really keeping busy. Which bothers you more, avocados or Chicago, and why?

DV: It’s a tough one, but I’d have to say Chicago bothers me more. Because I’ve never been robbed by an avocado.

LW: What advice would you give someone interested in writing Bizarro Fiction?

DV: I don’t like giving writing advice…because who the fuck am I? But if I had to give one piece of advice, it would be: Just go nuts. Whatever. Don’t fucking worry about anything but the story. Be crazy. Get crazy.

LW: Would you be happy living in a world made of ice cream?

DV: No I would not be happy living in a world made of ice cream. For a few reasons really. I am not a huge fan of dairy. It would be cold, and the cold sucks. And also I feel like everyone would be pretty fat. Fatter than they are now.

LW: If beards were outlawed tomorrow would you start a revolution?

DV: Yes I would. Viva La Beard!

LW: If you could live inside a book or movie, which one would it be, and why?

DV: I just finished reading this graphic novel called Blacksad. Maybe I’m just choosing it because I literally just glanced over at my bookshelf and it was the first thing I saw. Or maybe I’m choosing it because it’s a gritty as fuck story about a P.I. that also happens to be a black cat. This is a world full of anthropomorphic animals. And murder. And race relations. And violence. And sexy sex. Also it’s drawn by a former Disney animator. So it’s super pretty.

At this point Santa burst into the room and using a large whip tried to force us to cook dinner for him, so we both fled screaming. Thank you so much for talking to me, Daniel! It was super fun!

Thanks to Ross Lockhart for the photo of Daniel reading from The Church of TV as God, while dressed as a TV, at BizarroCon.

The Church of TV as God 

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