Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Skin Tape!

Written by Anthony Trevino 

Anyone that knows me well can attest to this fact: If I see a sign that reads KEEP OUT or if someone says, “DON’T GO IN THERE,” chances are I’m going in there with a flashlight and a crowbar. Because there’s still an angry adolescent in me that refuses to be told what to do and I enjoy feeling as if I’ve been exposed to some kind of hidden, off beat treasure, which is why my love-hate relationship with the internet could best be summed up as a Trouble Every Day kind of affair.

Now, granted I haven’t been spelunking in an abandoned house or lurked around the perimeter of a boarded up hotel in a while. However, I have been known to sink hours into following bizarre threads on Reddit and YouTube wherein I find myself shaking my head and saying, “I wish I hadn’t clicked on that.”

It was during one of these time-sinks that I came across Shaye Saint John’s video “Skin Tape.” Now, I should have known better, but what was I going to do? Not watch it? Pfffft. The video opens like an 80s workout tape with text that reads: Modeling Session: Skin Tape. From there I was thrust into two minutes and forty nine seconds of some of the oddest scenes my brain has ever been exposed to.  

I was thrilled. I was terrified. And I watched it again…and again.

The video has the just the right amount of absurdity, comedy, and horror. The production value is pretty much zero and its shot on what I can only assume is a low-definition video camera, which adds to the dirty imagery that plays out on the screen. I was beside myself with uncomfortable joy, and yet, I felt like there was more to what was happening, like I wasn’t’ quite getting the full picture.

So, I went on a mission to find more intel on this individual made up of disparate mannequin parts. See, Shaye used to be a knockout super model that was disfigured in a horrific accident. Following her recovery she created a series of bizarre videos that would lead her to be an underground sensation.  

Knowing about Shaye’s accident put the Skin Tape video in a different perspective. It became less about strange visuals and more about the character trying to cope with the loss of who she used to be. Shaye continues to repeat the same lines over and over. “Skin Tape”—which is just duct tape—and “It’s part of my condition,” along with shots of her rolling around a mountain of empty soda bottles that she refers to as a “Baby Bottle Ball Bath.”

There’s a lot of repetition in the video, as if to display the constant loop that Shaye’s psychosis is stuck in. The skin tape becomes new skin. The condition is her disfigurement. And to be honest, I don’t know what the fuck the Baby Bottle Ball Bath is, but I’ll never forget seeing that face leering at me for the first time from a top the pile of bottles.

And now….neither will you.

*The character of Shaye Saint John was created by Eric Fournier. Unfortunately, Fouriner passed away in 2010 thus ending the saga of Shaye, but leaving a legacy of hilarious terror behind.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Monsters Review Monsters: "Pacific Rim"

L:  Hello, I have many names, but you may call me Leviathan. I am the End of All Material Things, the Final Nemesis, and an amateur movie critic. With me is Quatra, a West Atlantic Defense Tower measuring approximately 985 feet in height and carrying an 878,000 megaton explosive yield nuclear stockpile. She also enjoys movies.

Q:  Hello, everyone!

L:  In recent years the so-called giant monster genre of entertainment has seen increased popularity. More than ever, puny humans with incomprehensibly brief lifespans are becoming fascinated by tales of kaiju and other large monstrosities ravaging the Earth.

Q:  Such interests also cross the mecha, cosmic horror, and mythological fantasy genres, but regardless of title, these works all have, at their core, an antagonist of astounding size. And given that Leviathan and I are both entities of astounding size, we thought we could offer a unique perspective on the books, movies, television shows, and games that feature "strange beasts."

L:  We're going to start with something relatively new and popular, the historical drama "Pacific Rim," directed by Guillermo del Toro. The story is set during the final years of mankind's dominance over their birth world as they struggle to survive an onslaught of kaiju, which emerge from the bottom of the sea. Cities are destroyed, millions killed, and though the Sons of Adam are successful in developing new weapons forged in their own image, the monstrous invasions grow increasingly frequent and destructive, with no end to the violence in sight.

Q:  Let's talk accuracy, because that was a huge stumbling block for me. In typical fashion, Hollywood has completely glossed over history in order to tell a more streamlined, "action-packed" story. The first mecha gargantua weren't even born until AFTER the Wall of Life program was instituted. We're talking a thirty year gap here - a pretty significant chunk of history that includes the Akira Incident, the Third Impact, and confrontations with Dagon. 

L:  History, in the human sense, is an entirely fallacious concept. I tried to focus on the film's thematic progression and its handling of the story arc overall. I did think they were a bit heavy with the exposition, though.

Q:  Also, the kaiju in this movie are tiny. Seriously, look at this chart: 

Those tiny black silhouettes are the kaiju from the movie. The bigger, grayer ones represent the creatures I fight almost every single day.

L:  Eons ago, the Nephilim walked the Earth, and though they had many slaves, they were hunted by still larger entities - luminous beings which could blot out the sky with their mass. Grandeur is always relative.

Q:  The fights were pretty rad, though.

L:  Yes, let us discuss the bloodshed.

Q:  I haven't lived as a human in centuries, so I find it difficult to empathize with fleshy consequences like dismemberment and melting skin, but I did find the plight of the jaegers - the giant robots employed against the kaiju - to be a very compelling aspect. 

L:  I am a manifestation of the sea, and though countless waves will break upon the shore, my assault is unrelenting.

Q:  Exactly. What we have here is a war between robotic slaves and a race of twisted alien simulacra, bred to kill from the moment they're born. As a living defense Tower that spends her days engaged in long-distance bombardment of enraged biomechanical beings, that really spoke to me. And I think that's the beauty of historical fiction - its ability to transcend time by portraying struggle as a universal and timeless facet of life. Its eerie how closely the distant past resembles the present.

L:  I too felt time that time and place were being transcended, though more specifically in the way this film entirely resembled "Independence Day," directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Will Smith.

Q:  Well, it's true that both conflicts were resolved with the use of tactical nuclear warheads - a solution I am not unfamiliar with. 

L:  Wholesale destruction of famous human landmarks, alien invaders, a species on the brink of extinction, scientific hubris, environmentalist overtones, a rousing speech by a war veteran, utilizing subterfuge to breach an otherwise impassable barrier, a look of recognition and terror on the face of the Other as they greet their annihilation, a non-provocative hug between romantic partners at the film's conclusion...

Q:  Romantic partners? What romantic partners?

L:  Our protagonists Raleigh and Mako. Mako was caught staring at Raleigh's naked torso. They had an innuendo-laden sword fight. They were Drift compatible, implying compatibility in other ways. She begged him not to leave her alone when she thought he was dying.

Q:  So, what, just because a man and woman are on screen they have to fall in love? Maybe their Drift compatibility allowed them to bypass mere infatuation and arrive at a deeper connection that's wholly platonic, which might be why things seemed more playful in the beginning but less so after they Drifted. Love isn't all about the desire to bone. There are many kinds of love.

L:  I am the Antithesis of Life and Love. It is my entire purpose to bring an end where there is a beginning. I am Death, which severs all human emotion forever.

Q:  But love isn't an emotion, Leviathan. It's a connection. Emotions come and go, but love transcends us. Although I think it's silly that one measly 250 foot robot would require two human minds to operate, the implication is that connections can overcome even the most frightening levels of adversity. My partner, Alti, is also a Tower, and we wouldn't be able to do what we do - fight for a thousand years - if it wasn't for our bond. The promise that, no matter what, we'll be together. 

L:  I do not wish to hear about your husband and his anxiety problems again. Overall, as an ageless and unknowable entity, I give "Pacific Rim" 3 stars out of 5. A solid action movie. Strong visuals with an uninteresting character arc. Ultimately satisfying if largely forgettable.

Q:  Hmph. I give it 4 out of 5 stars for its subtle undertones, masterful use of color, and excellent fight scenes. I could have done with better performances from the main actors and more historical accuracy.

L:  If you have a suggestion for the next giant monster related item we should review, let us know in the comments. And be sure to check out the novel "Towers," by Karl Fischer, which includes my co-host Quatra and a cameo by me, Leviathan, the Enemy of Man.

Q:  Till next time!

 Buy Towers on Amazon

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Where Are They Now? Interview with Justin Grimbol

by Pedro Proença

I had the honor and the privilege to interview one of my favorite writers, and all-around beautiful human being Justin Grimbol.

Pedro: Hey Justin! In advance, thank you for the interview! When and how did you get involved with Bizarro Fiction, and the New Bizarro Author Series?

Justin: I got into Mellick first. The Haunted Vagina was my first Bizarro read. Then I read everything Mellick. I would bring his books to work. This was really awkward because of the titles. But I'm a risk taker, a rebel, a go-getter, a Adrenalin junky, so I brought them in anyway. Then I heard about Bizarro Central. I wrote a little blog piece about bringing Mellick to work. People liked it. Kevin Shamel contacted me and asked me to write a book for the NBAS. My first attempt was called THE MINIVAN. It was about a man stuck in an evil Minivan. But it was rejected. It was getting close to deadline. But Kevin wanted to give me another chance. I sent him a bunch of pitches. He had me combine the ideas he liked, then send him an outline. Then I wrote the book in a couple days. Binge writing was fucking blast. I got all sweaty and crazed and excited about life. And tired. It also made me tired. I edited the fucker for a day or so. Then I sent it to Kevin. He told me he wanted to publish it. We worked on it for a couple weeks. He emailed me and told me he wanted more monster fights. I sent him some more scenes with monster fights. Then he said he wanted even more monster fights. So I sent him even more monster fights. Kevin was fun to work with. After the book was all jacked up on monster fights, I flew out to Bizarro Con. I partied hard. Talked about books and danced and didn't shower much. After that I felt thoroughly bonded to the scene.

Pedro: That's incredible! I read some of Carlton's books on the train, and attracted some amused looks myself.
Every story I hear about the NBAS rush reminds me of our class'. We had a really tight schedule, it was nine of us, from three different continents, and we made it work.
What do you think is coming for Bizarro? Do you think it will ever be mainstream? Can you see in your head a Crud Masters movie?

Justin: I think there are Bizarro authors I think will become really popular and maybe even legendary. I don't know about main stream.
I think Pacific Rim is a lot like The Crud Masters. My book had more raunchy sex though. So its better. Also, here's a little secret. My buddy Pete, was trying to get his cartoon Uncle Grandpa picked up by Cartoon Network around the time I wrote the book. But they didn't like it at first. So I asked him if I could put his character in my book. He said I could. So I did. Eventually cartoon network did pick up the series. I doubt they realize that my own version of Uncle Grandpa is in The Crud Masters. Wait, what was I trying to say? Oh yeah. Uncle Grandpa is better than Pacific Rim. Uncle Grandpa is in my book. I also cry a lot. Also, I like to take pictures of trees. Also, my dog as a silky forehead. Also, when I am feeling really sad I watch Star Trek Fan Films and that really fucks with my head. This all has something to do with something else and that's something.

Pedro: I also cry a lot. I cried reading each one of your books, actually. Something about a sensitive fat guy who loves butts really touched me. In the butt.
Seriously, your books triggered reactions in me that maybe no others did.
Which movies/books made you cry when you were first exposed to them?

Justin: Oh I'm a big time sap. I can't watch a Rocky Balboa Training montage on Youtube without sobbing. My favorite movie is Terms of Endearment. That fucking thing will make me weep. Carlton Mellicks Teeth And Tongue Landscape made me cry. The end of Stephen Kings IT made me cry. Jim Harrison just died and that made me cry. Lots of Larry McMurtrys books make me cry. Holy shit, Diary Of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie made me weep forever. Sam Shepard Plays make me weep. There were scenes in Cry Father by Whitmer that made me weepy. The list goes on and on.

Pedro: If someone walks up to you and gently ask you for writing advice, what do you say?

Justin: Read a bunch. Write a bunch. Use adverbs sometimes. Its no big deal. Use the word  VERY and JUST sometimes. Its fun.
Don't follow the writing rules. Walk a lot.
Don't try and be profound.
Have fun and remember its work.
Let me touch your butt.
I would say all that. Then I would touch their butt. Then they would understand.

Pedro: I look forward to having my butt touched by you, Justin.
Thank you very much for this interview :)))

Justin: No problem my NBAS homey. Stay Golden.

Where Are They Now? Interview With Kevin Shamel

by Lee Widener

 This is a real treat. Today I'm talking with author Kevin Shamel. Kevin was part of the first New Bizarro Author Series crew, and also went on to become editor of the series, so we'll gain some insight into how the series began, and how it evolved in the first few years.

LW: Hi Kevin- To start off, how in the world did you find out about Bizarro fiction, and get involved with it? And how did you hook up with Eraserhead Press?

KS: I found bizarro in 2009 when I kept having stories rejected by traditional publishers for being “too weird”, unless they asked me to butcher them into something more palatable for the mainstream. I got tired of making my protagonists and their worlds normal, or fit into the accepted tropes for horror, science fiction, or urban fantasy. I looked online one day for “weird fiction magazines”, as I was of the assumption that writing short stories was the way into the publishing world (something the very approachable, friendly, and longtime hero of mine Christopher Moore set me straight on about the same time I found EHP, actually). I found Eraserhead’s website, read some Carlton Mellick III and knew these were my people.

I actually submitted the last survey they had on their site to determine if a writer was of like-mind and someone they might want to get to know. It was the last one because EHP was going through some changes right when I found them—they’d just come up with the idea for the NBAS, and started the first Bizarro Bunker. Then all sorts of weird “coincidences” happened.

Rose O’Keefe contacted me soon after and told me that one of their writers lived in the same city (Olympia, Washington) as me— Cameron Pierce. She suggested that I meet him. However, by the time we connected (just a day or two later), Cameron told me he was moving to Portland—like right then. BUT, he told me that he had a friend who lived in one of the black houses (it’s an Olympia thing) who was hosting a reading for him and a few other authors. Turned out that house was at the end of my block. You can read about it from Jeff Burk:


 In fact, if you read that blog post, keeping in mind that I was the photographer and this was the FIRST time I’d ever met these people, you’ll know exactly why I had to work with them. I had no idea how lucky I was to 1-. See the second Meat Magick (and every other one after that!) 2- Witness Jeff’s Shatnerquake performance, and 3- See CARLTON FREAKIN’ MELLICK III perform in a room with only five or ten audience members—that’s something not a lot of people can say. Hell, the moment they piled out of their car with handfuls of burritos before the reading I knew this was my crew. By the time they’d finished dinner, I’d walked home and got my martini-fixins so we could really get to know each other. THEN they performed. I’d never seen anything like it, and I knew it was exactly my style. Also, I laughed until I hurt.
And that was that. I’d submitted writing samples and links to some of my published stuff and we knew we liked each other. Soon Rose sent me an email introducing me to my editor for their new idea, the New Bizarro Author Series, and we got to work.

LW:  That's quite a story! Who was that editor, and what was it like working with him/her?

KS: Kevin Donihe was my editor. It was weird and good to work with him. I had about 20,000 words written on a book and a couple others I’d started, which he’d read and liked, but about twenty-thousand words was about as big as he wanted an NBAS book to be. So I pitched him some ideas until we had one that we both liked and I went to work on it. Took about a week for the first draft, and then Kevin showed me how to expand the good parts. He’s got a tremendous grasp of language, and knew how to turn what I had into an actual book. It was great, really, all around. But such a new experience for me, and definitely enlightening. Carlton was in charge of the NBAS at that time, and I learned a lot from him about craft and later promotion. I remember the first NBAS series as a team effort from all the staff of Eraserhead Press, really. In that year, I learned more about publishing than I had in the ten that it took me to get to where I was.

LW: Tell us about your NBAS book, and what kind of interesting things you did to promote it.

KS: Rotten Little Animals was inspired by a cat fight in a rainstorm that my 12-year-old neighbor Audrey and I watched from my upstairs hall window. She called my attention to two cats doing some sort of Kung Fu across the street. I shit you not, one cat followed the other that leapt over a picket fence, when a wind-gust slammed him straight through the boards. The freakin’ cat didn’t miss a beat and continued fighting the other in the yard when a huge torrent of rain let-loose. The cats were illuminated in the yard as street lights popped on in response to the sudden darkening of the sky. They just kept going at each other. It was amazing. More amazing was Audrey’s observation. During the fight, a meat truck drove around the block three times. We were standing there, watching this insane thing happen and she said, “That meat truck is ruining the shot.” Immediately I had the idea for an animal film crew at work on a cat fight scene when that stupid meat truck ruined the shot by circling the block over and over—and that scene became the opening of the book.

I promoted the hell out of it. The Rotten Little Puppet Show was born after I spent 52 hours with the help of friends and family creating elaborate sock puppets for the characters in the story. During performances, I’d yell out the craziest scene from the book, making the audience be the puppeteers. Zombie-cat puppets were the favorites.
I took car-magnet stock-signs from an online printing company and turned them into free ads for me which I put all over the internet. I ran giveaway contests, had people make their own zombie-cat puppets, worked on gathering reviews and generally trying to figure out Amazon algorithms (which ended up catching the attention of German publisher Voodoo Press, who have since added quite a few American Bizarro books to their list, but who made my book the first NBAS book to be translated and published in another country which didn’t hurt promotion one bit), played on Goodreads, had a funny animal blog and did stuff on Facebook before it was stuff you can’t do on Facebook or you won’t have friends for long—but it was new, then. I worked my ass off on that book, because I had to sell 200 copies in a year (and that’s a lot harder than one would think). I managed to sell over 250. At that time, the prize was a contract with Eraserhead Press.

LW:  Did you work on any promotional projects with the other NBAS authors that year?

KS:  The first year of the NBAS is very different from the rest. We were totally pioneering stuff—trying things out to see if they worked. And we weren’t as close as subsequent years became. It wasn’t really something we did much, and none of us lived near each other. We tried a few things, but nothing that stands out as a real, working, group promotional effort. Most of us genuinely loved each other’s books, and we cross-promoted as much as we could. Of course, we all kind of considered each other competition, too. We weren’t just competing, but we didn’t know yet what a little family (and therefore FORCE) we could become if we threw-in together more than we did. Happily, the experience welded a bond between David Barbee and I that nothin’s gonna break. I saw that happen a lot in subsequent years between authors of the same series.

LW: How did you go from having an NBAS book to becoming the editor for the series?

KS: Well… Let’s just say some changes happened and I was looking to move to Portland. I had worked very closely with the EHP crew for a couple of years, spending a lot of time at conventions with them and doing performances. I’d done Bizarro Bootcamp, which I won’t really get into explaining other than to say that in the time I was with the crew, I learned how they worked up-close and fell in love with their style and ethics. If I had to work for someone, they were who I wanted to work for. Luckily, they’d hoped I’d ask.

Rose and Carlton took me on to learn editing and layout as well as begin the Bizarro Brigade. I spent a lot of time sitting between Rose and Jeff Burk editing manuscripts and learning from them how to work all the software involved in publishing. Once they thought I had a good grasp, I went to work as an editor for the series, along with Donihe, and was placed in charge of the NBAS authors—answering questions, cheerleading, teaching about promotional stuff, helping them organize things, keeping them up to date with sales figures, all the stuff that I’d been through in their shoes.

I was able to scout new talent and help those authors complete their first books—several times from concept to completion. It was a very fulfilling job. I’m happy to have played a part in so many writers starting out their careers. And heaps of them are doing amazing things today.

LW: You mentioned scouting authors and helping them get them in print. Who are some of the authors that came to your attention that you're glad you gave a shot?

KS: My list of "found 'ems" includes Vince Kramer, Gabino Iglesias, Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Shane Cartledge, Tiffany Scandal, Dan Vlasaty... I believe there are more. There are certainly other people I've published that had already been published in other venues (like Justin Grimbol, Tamara Romero, and Spike Marlowe), and really, Gabino was already writing quality articles for Eraserhead Press dot Com and was an established reviewer/professional freakin' journalist, so it's not like no one else thought he'd make a great bizarro author. I just approached him is all. In some cases I pursued these authors, other cases encouraged them to write books. I'm just happy to have given ALL my writers exposure, however much help I have been.

LW: You worked with Kevin Donihe as co-editors. Was that ever confusing- Kevin and Kevin?

KS: Kevin and I were referred to among staff and authors as, Donihe and Shamel. Sometimes The Kevins. Never Kevin Squared, and that would have been cool. Damnit.

LW: What did you learn from working as an editor for so many different writers?

KS: I learned how to be a better writer, that’s for certain. I learned how satisfying it is to see something in someone’s story that they haven’t yet, and to help them make it blossom. I thought I’d already learned the value of being succinct, but seeing its opposite reflected in others’ writing made me pay more attention to using fewer words—I was also a sort of acquisitions editor, receiving at least one query a day (usually more), many with attached novellas, I saw countless examples of not-great writing. I learned to write in different styles as well, however, having such a wide variety of authors and to appreciate the uniqueness in every writer’s voice. One of my favorite things was editing a scene or paragraph and matching the changes with the rest of the story—almost putting myself into the writer at the time he or she wrote it. Or just steering them toward the outcome that made the story even better than I could have thought. I learned that I have a lot of favorite authors. I think also, I learned how to be an editor. It’s not a job or working relationship, it’s a friendship. You have to really cherish the authors you take on. You have to respect each other, and work well together. I love all the people I worked with. ALL OF YOU!!!!

LW: From your experience as an editor what can you tell someone interested in writing Bizarro, about what NOT to do?

KS: Don’t jump in thinking you know what bizarro is without learning what makes the genre a genre. This is really the only solid, lasting advice I can give. But here’s some that might still apply: Don’t tell an editor that you’ve just written the first/best/only/greatest story about __________. Don’t get an editor’s name wrong—no Ms. or Mr. unless you know for certain, no Kalvin Dondalhees, Gareth Kochs or Dudes (especially to female editors and unless you’ve talked to that editor before or shared a joint in the least). No talking dicks. I know that last one is a joke by now, but it’s not a fucking joke. NO TALKING DICKS. Don’t assume that because your book has messed-up sex, a bunch of explosions and is as politically incorrect as possible, that it’s something for bizarro editors to slobber over. No vampires either, unless they’re better than Dargoth Van Gloomfang, which they can never be. (I’m actually not the one who can say so now, maybe vampires are fine with current editors, but not talking dicks, I know this will never be okay.) But if you don’t know the vampire I just referred to, your chances of getting bizarro right just got slimmer.

Misogyny is unacceptable in bizarro. Actually, any sort of limiting of people as individuals is. If you’re not making fun of it, calling it out as the horrible fucking thing that it is in the world, and saying how much it makes you want to puke, try somewhere else. Bizarro is an open movement—all-inclusive, unlimited, everyone-friendly. We don’t like people treating people (or animals) badly. Don’t try and sell stories about talking dicks, and don’t BE a talking dick—that’s some pretty standard, long-lasting advice.

LW: And what SHOULD they do?

KS: They should read bizarro. They should read it from its beginning to its current incarnation. They should know who the big authors are, and why they are the big authors. They should attend performances, readings, workshops and conventions with bizarros. They should meet the people they want to work with, if at all possible—which is at least possible through social media. They should know who they want to write for and why. They should become acquainted with the various presses, and what they publish. They should be aware of the press’s history, their standing in the publishing industry, their policies. They should read what people say about them as well as what they publish. Research and understand the market. Be polite.

And then submit a great book, idea, pitch, or story to an editor. Make it the best you can before you send it. Make it bizarro: Weird characters in weird worlds with weird problems or whatever story device with which you’re working—just keep it weird. Remember that short story collections aren’t that attractive as a first book, for readers or editors. Remember also that for every twenty brilliant ideas that no one has ever thought of before, only one or two will actually be original enough to pass as original, and they might not be anything an editor wants to spend time on. Just keep trying until you hit the right one.

Keep writing.

LW: What's been going on since you stopped editing for the NBAS? I know your life has been through some pretty major changes.

KS: That was three years ago now. I’ve been splitting time between the US and Australia—lately mostly Australia (where I live with my lovely Australian wife, Anna). I’m working on getting a visa that allows me to work here and come and go as I want, so I can split more equal time between the two places and see my kids more. It’s proven a bit of a task, but we’re working on it. I’ve been keeping busy with four stepkids, our new dog, battling in-laws, mourning dead spiders, spending time outside, working the now-harvested garden, getting this latest book of mine all prettied-up, and all the weird projects I’m working on. I’ve been producing things, but I’m not yet able to sell them anywhere, so I’m saving up my new lines of products for when I can hit craft fairs, launch websites, etc. I’m making zombie cat sock puppets. I’ve been playing fashion re-designer and have a line of hand-sewn clothing I’m calling, Punked Up Clothes. I taught myself lost-wax casting a couple of years ago, and I’ve been making fine silver jewelry using stones that were my dad’s or that I’ve found. And of course, I’m writing. Always writing.
LW: You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

KS: I’m very excited for this one. It’s called, Not Safe For Kids, coming out this month! It’s an illustrated children’s book for adults. It’s full of bad advice, wrong facts, and confirmation of childhood fears. I tell people it’s like if you left  your kids with your drunken brother who lives in your mom’s basement who you had to use as a babysitter in an extreme emergency when not a single soul, even that guy you sometimes see sitting by the dumpster talking to himself, could watch your precious little ones and he told them “the fuggin’ TROOF, more or less, damnit, are you gonna pay me for this or what, only two outta three are cryin’ or hurt”. Or as my son said, when he was eight, and I read it to him aloud, “Can you imagine if actual kids got a hold of it?”

LW: Your book's cover and interior art are by Jim Agpalsa. Tell us about working with Jim. What was your process like? Did you just give him the manuscript after it was completed, or was it more of an organic process?

KS: This book is by both of us.

I awoke at 4AM one day and starting writing. By 10:00 I had the text. I went out and had a smoke, and imagined the first little entry illustrated. I went back inside and emailed it to Jim, asking if he’d be interested in drawing it, and then if maybe he’d consider working with me on a whole book like it. He said he liked the idea. The next day he told me that he’d read the story to his young daughter and she asked if it was true. He said, “Yes.” I knew that we’d make a great team. (I already knew that, anyway. Jim’s illustrated some shit for me that hasn’t been published yet. He’s a great artist, and anyone is lucky to have him on their creative team. He’s also a really good person, and super cool.)

I sent him what I’d written and he turned it into GOLD. Seriously, without Jim’s illustrations, this would not be a book. With them, it’s magickally wicked. I think he and I make a fabulous team. He took my mean little entries and translated them into gorgeous illustrations. The cover is a colorized version of one of the interior illustrations that Jim reworked a bit. This is a truly beautiful book, and I’m seriously proud to have a hand in it.

I was allowed to go crazy with the interior design and layout of this book, and I had an amazing time pushing myself into new things with the coaxing of my publisher and final editor on this project, Rose O’Keefe (who also designed the cover). I hope people like it.

At any rate, this couldn’t have happened without Jim’s amazing art and us being in synch with each other. I’m hoping we can bring similar things into being in the future. Jim is a good friend, and a great pleasure to work with. Also, one hell of a fantastic artist—check him out all over the Bizarro world.

LW: This has been a blast, Kevin! Anything else you'd like to add?

KS: I’d like to thank you for thinking of me for this interview series, and for asking such great questions. I hope I didn’t go overboard in my answers. Best of luck to you, Lee, in your future publishing life. And to all of the NBAS authors. I know how tough it is. I also know you can do it.