Norman Prentiss on his stellar novel, ODD ADVENTURES WITH YOUR OTHER FATHER
About a year ago, my darling Hellions, I posted an article about Norman Prentiss’s latest work, a unique on-the-road kinda tale called ODD ADVENTURES WITH YOUR OTHER FATHER. Since then, the book has garnered high praise and is in contention for a coveted Bram Stoker award.
I described the book as “An absolutely beautiful book that seamlessly combines love and monsters. One of the most truly unique and unforgettable reads I’ve ever come across.”
Well, I’ve dragged Norman back for an interview and I strongly encourage all of you to pick up a copy. It’s only $1.00 on Kindle now, so run, don’t walk!
Odd Adventures With Your Other Father is one of the most poignant novels, horror or otherwise, I’ve read in a long time. What was the inspiration behind this unique, touching story?
First, thanks for the nice words about the book’s emotional stuff. It’s been hard to pitch to my usual horror readers, since the supernatural elements/adventures are essentially wrapped around a coming-of-age tale, and the whole book essentially comprises an unconventional love story. But the quirky structure of the book, and its strange mixture of themes/genres, is a big part of what energized me as I was writing it.
I’d had the idea for the book for quite a while. Ten or so years ago, I made notes for a story called “Union,” that essentially played off of the only supernatural element in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, when Jane telepathically hears Rochester’s agonized cry for her help. Jane and Rochester have such a close connection, that they can read each others’ minds from a distance. I wanted to write about a similar telepathic connection, and came up with the idea that a gay couple, growing up in the 80s, might develop a mild supernatural ability to compensate for the isolation they might feel during a more repressed era. The idea was that one member of the couple gets kidnapped, but could project gruesome images that helped his partner locate him. The idea sat in the back of my mind for a while, and eventually developed into some other adventures I had for the couple. Then, as I was structuring the tales into the Odd Adventures novel, I realized I needed an origin story, of a sorts… so “Bread Crumbs,” the first adventure in the book, is a fully realized version of my earlier “Union” notes.
As I was reading it, I was hoping it was a veiled autobiography. I know that sounds crazy, but I love the concept of hidden wonders on a cross country road trip. How much fact, if any, is there in the fiction?
That actually doesn’t sound crazy at all, and is exactly how I think about the novel! My first book, the novella Invisible Fences, is largely a fictionalized autobiography of my childhood. Odd Adventures with your Other Father, to me, is autobiographical with respect to my adult life — with a horror and fantasy overlay, of course. The main characters, Jack and Shawn, each contain characteristics borrowed from me and my partner of 30+ years, with Jack being a more adventurous, more confident version of myself. The best parts of Shawn reflect my real-life husband. As for the fantasy/horror elements…here’s the thing: growing up gay in the 70s and 80s was always a surreal experience, to some extent — reading in code, finding queer themes embedded in mainstream books; looking at ideas of marriage and family that you’re afraid would never apply to you. So, to represent that time with any truth, to show how it really felt, fantasy elements were essential. And monsters, too.
How would you categorize the book? Horror is by and large dominated by stories centering around straight white males. What is your hope for the future of horror?
I call it a Horror/Fantasy/LGBT road-trip adventure with a coming-of-age frame tale. That’s not much help to book marketers who want a single category, however. For me it’s mostly horror, since that’s my sensibility…and when I describe it that way, it allows the love/family elements to sneak up on readers, which I kinda don’t mind.
As for horror often centering around straight white males — I’ll admit I’ve written my share of those myself, ha! When I first conceived the Other Father stories, I think it would have been a harder sell with horror audiences. But from the response I’ve been getting, it seems like things are more open: very positive reactions from horror readers, and also encouraging comments from people who have said things like “This isn’t the kind of book I’d normally pick up, but I enjoyed it.” Maybe the LGBT content has actually helped the book, by making it stand out a bit.
What horror movie and book would you say is the Norman Prentiss spirit animal?
I’ll just say the 1931 King Kong in the movie category. As a kid, I was fascinated by the stop-motion animation of Kong and the dinosaurs…and I even allude to Kong and stop-motion in one of the adventures, “The Manikin’s Revenge.” As a writer, I like the slow build of the 1931 movie, which probably had a subconscious influence on how I construct stories: setting up the atmosphere, referring to an off-screen monster as the tension builds, then letting the monster or ghost or whatever break into the story at the right moment.
As for books as spirit animals… I’d say anything by Douglas Clegg or T.M. Wright; Straub’s Ghost Story for its complex structure and commentary on storytelling; and add in a collection of M. R. James stories.
I know you’re a teacher as well as a writer. If you could be in any other profession, what would it be?
My favorite job, actually, is part-time teacher. I love teaching, but I always over-prepare, so it’s better for me to have a reduced class load. That leaves time for my editing gig at Cemetery Dance (for their eBooks), and my writing.
What’s your dream city to visit and why?
I spent my junior year of college in England, and really fell in love with Oxford. I’ve planned out two more books in the Other Father series, but they all take place in the U.S. You’re making me think, now, that I need to write a fourth book that takes place in England…
If you could write in any other genre, what would it be?
Definitely comedy. I’m often wary of mixing horror and comedy, but have tried my hand at it in a couple stories, including “The Albright Sextuplets,” and “The Man Who Could Not Be Bothered to Die” (a kind of zombie story in Blood Lite 3). When I was writing poetry, I tended to include a dark comic element. I’m currently writing a daily blog of flash fiction that frequently includes comic elements. It’s called “Excerpts from The Apocalypse-a-Day Desk Calendar,” with mini-stories triggered by holidays or “on this day” events. A lot of post-apocalyptic horror, obviously, but some is straight-up humor — check the inappropriate Jane Austen mash-up in the January 28th entry, for example. The blog’s available for free at: http://normanprentiss.com/category/apocalypse-a-day/
What are you currently working on and how can peeps follow your own odd adventures?
In addition to keeping up with the Apocalypse blog, I’m also revising a novel called Life in a Haunted House, which is about a young movie fan who gains access to the studio of his favorite low-budget director. When I officially announce the book, I’ll be releasing some fun tie-in novelizations of movies that get mentioned in the novel–my hope is to make these stories free-of-charge to folks who subscribe to my newsletter: visit www.normanprentiss.com, and click the Newsletter link. I’ve already given away two mini-collections of stories to my subscribers (In the Best Stories and Queer Panics), and my novella Invisible Fences has been free for a while at Barnes and Noble and Amazon US, so I’m really working hard to get my fiction into people’s ereaders! And by the way, since we’ve been talking about Odd Adventures with your Other Father…this is my most important and personal book, I definitely feel it’s my best work, and it’s discounted to only $1 for the whole month of February at Amazon US and Amazon Canada.
About Hunter SheaHunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. His novels, Forest of Shadows, Evil Eternal , Swamp Monster Massacre , Sinister Entity, Hell Hole, The Waiting and Island of the Forbidden are published through Samhain Publishing’s horror line. Hell Hole was named Horror Novel Reviews #1 horror novel of 2014. His first thriller novel, The Montauk Monster, was released June, 2014 as a Pinnacle paperback, and was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best reads of the summer. His follow up Pinnacle novel, Tortures of the Damned, a post apocalyptic thriller, will be out July, 2015. That will be followed up by his latest cryptid tale, The Dover Demon, in the fall through Samhain. His horror short story collection, Asylum Scrawls, is available as an e-book, straightjacket not included. Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come. A copy of his book, The Montauk Monster, is currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME. He wrote his first novel with the express desire to work only with editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester (Leisure Horror). He submitted his novel to Don and only Don, unagented, placed on the slush pile. He is proof that dedicated writers can be rescued from no man’s land. He now works with Don, along with several other agents and publishers, having published over ten books in just four years. Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, cryptid and ghost hunters, directors and anyone else living in the horror lane. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.
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