I first met Damien Walters Grintalis at the Horrorfind con in Gettysburg, PA last Labor Day weekend. I was immediately struck by her sharp wit and great sense of humor. We were at the Samhain author table and believe me, she could hold her own with the boys. I especially loved the 50’s era dresses she wore that made her stand out from the crowd. She was promoting her debut novel, Ink, months before it was scheduled for release.
Because her book is about a tattoo that takes on a sinister life of its own. she had made little temporary tattoos to hand out to promote the book. By the end of the weekend, a first time author was the most popular person at the booth. Remarkable. And her novel, Ink, is even more so.
I’m happily seeing more women getting recognized in the horror field, especially on the writing side. No need to dress skimpy and scream a lot when you’re creating a world of terror. This being Women in Horror month, I though it was appropos that I kick things off with Damien. But when you get down to it, man or woman, she’s an extremely talented writer.
It’s very apparent that Damien worked very hard on her craft before submitting for publication, which I think a lot of new writers kind of skip over. We’re all so eager to make our mark on the publishing world that we jump into marketing and promotion before making sure our manuscript is as tight as it can be.
I was very happy that she wanted to appear on the blog and chain and talk about her road to publication, upcoming work and most creative way to die.
To prepare myself for this interview, I read, or more accurately, devoured, your debut novel, Ink. I promise not to give away any spoilers, but I will say that it was one of the top 5 horror books I’ve read in the past few years. Would you care to tell everyone a little bit about the book? Jason, the main character, is fresh out of a bad marriage and he makes an impulsive decision to get a tattoo by a tattoo artist he meets in a bar. Can you say bad decision? Neither the tattoo artist nor the tattoo are what they seem and Jason ends up in a world of hurt.
Ink is truly one of the more original and inventive stories I’ve seen in a long time. Where did you get your inspiration? I was walking out of a tattoo shop and had a what-if moment. Then I had a picture in my head of a man with a strange walk. I wasn’t sure how he was connected to the story, but I knew he was. I tried to replicate his walk in my living room and after a few minutes, the reason for his odd walk and his connection to the story became very very clear.
Speaking of Ink, do you have any tattoos? I have a few myself and now I’m a little nervous when I feel an itch on my arms. Yes, I have six. It may be tempting fate, but I’m contemplating a griffin on my left arm.
I know from my own writing that characters are often drawn from the people who have touched my life in one way or another. Your characters are so reach, so vivid, I just know there are some real life folks in there. So, care to spill the beans on who Jason. Mitch, Shelley and even Sailor are? Jason is a construct of a few people I’ve known. I did not want to write about the big burly alpha male who fixes everything with a flex of his pecs. I wanted someone less confident. Someone breakable. Mitch, on the other hand, is strong and self-reliant. If anything, she’s the White Knight in the story. Jason’s father is based on my own, although the catchphrases he uses belong to my husband.
Sailor isn’t based on anyone I know, but a concept that evil can be anyone, anywhere. There is no one face, one look, for evil and a man in an expensive suit can be just as dangerous as a homeless man with wild hair and crazy eyes. (And no, I don’t believe all homeless men are dangerous, just that many people perceive to be.) Take Ted Bundy, for example. He was good looking, he was charming, but beneath the pleasant exterior, he was a monster.
After I read Ink, I said to myself, “where has Damien been hiding all these years?”. What was your road to publication like and how did you become a part of our Samhain family? I wrote Ink initially in 2009. It wasn’t my first novel, but it was the first one I felt confident about. When it was edited and pretty, I started to query agents. I had several offers of representation, which shocked me. Fast forward a handful of months and I heard about Don D’Auria joining Samhain. I talked to my then-agent, he sent Ink to Don, and a few months later we had an offer.
OK, your debut novel is out and on the Samhain topseller list. What new book or books are you working on and when can we expect to see them in print? My new novel, Paper Tigers, about a disfigured young woman and a haunted photo album, is still in the horror genre, but of a different sort than Ink. My agent and I have been going back and forth with revisions, trying to make it as shiny and sparkly (of the non-faux-vampire type) as possible. I have two other novels waiting in the wings for edits and in between the novels, I also write a lot of short fiction.
If aliens made themselves known to us and asked you to come with them to their planet, never to return to earth, would you accept the invitation and why or why not? No, I would not. My family, my life, is here.
Here’s a series of rapid fire questions: Favorite movie? Favorite food? Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry? Most creative way to die? Kittens or puppies? Alien. Soup. Tom & Jerry. Um…jumping into an active volcano? Puppies. Definitely puppies.
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog and chain. Please let everyone know where to find you and any parting words of wisdom.
You can find me online via my website: www.damienwaltersgrintalis.com , my blog: dwgrintalis.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @dwgrintalis. Parting words of wisdom? Never investigate strange noises while wearing only underwear, and always check behind the closed shower curtain.
So, have we piqued your interest? Trust me, even if you’re not a horror fan, Ink will captivate you. What’s your publication journey been like? And more importantly, what is your most creative way to take a dirt nap?
Yes, yes it did. You’ll have to give me a minute here. I’m really excited that you’ll be reading my book!
Alistair screamed his rage and fought to break free of his dying host. I lunged, knocking my stunned opponent to the ground. Huge slates of plaster plummeted around us. The steel bathroom doors twisted like they were made of foil, tearing from the hinges to whistle through the air. The building’s structural beams groaned; the walls threatened to give.
Metal shelving units popped free from the walls, and cement screws volleyed through the air. Searing pain ripped through my shoulder as one of them hit their mark, then another. Beneath me, Alistair’s true form threatened to break free of its host. Maniacal laughter erupted as he fed off my wounds.
Enraged, I seized his throat, squeezing the slender column until it threatened to pop. Time was running short. Another minute and the ruined building would implode from the force of our destruction. Coiling over him, I sank my teeth deep into the base of his neck, tearing flesh free from bone with a vicious shake. Warm fountains of blood spurted on my face. Geysers of life pumped from the mangled jugular. The fluid was bitter and sticky against my tongue. Grimacing, I spat the foul taste from my mouth, my eyes burning with hatred. Alistair made a strange gurgling sound, his hand reaching out in a last ditch effort, but his strength faded with each weakening beat of the human’s heart.
Lips curled into a sneer, I knocked his arm away and, seconds later, his eyes went black. I remained hunched, shoulders heaving while I caught my breath and shook the last threads of anger. Throwing my head back I bellowed, releasing the last shreds of violence and ire.
The ground stilled, and an eerie silence settled over the store. Only the sound of my own labored breathing reached my ears. Wiping the blood on the sleeve of my coat, I stood. Concerned, I sought Ava among the piles of rubble and found her clinging to Remiel. She was still wide-eyed and trembling. Her fists twisted in his torn cloak as if attempting to hold on to his very life. I ached to offer her a reassuring smile, but instead I found my gaze riveting upon the speechless angel at her side. He stared back in silence, tense, but calm despite the chaos.
“You,” I growled through clenched teeth, “are worthless.”
“Seir . . .”
My eyes snapped to Ava in question, though I still struggled, aching with the urge to rip her friend from the floor. Several agonizing seconds ticked by, measured only by my beating heart as she struggled to form coherent thought.
“W-what are you doing here?”
“I was in the neighborhood.” It was a dry quip, but I was still seething with annoyance. I turned to confront Remiel, pinning him a scathing glare. “It’s probably a damn good thing, too, seeing as you were nowhere to be found.”
His chin lifted a notch in defense. “I was shielding her. I kept her safe.”
A humorless smile lifted one corner of my mouth; my shoulders lifted in a snort. “Keep on telling yourself that if it makes you feel better.”
“I suppose you want to eliminate me now as well?” Wariness crept into his voice and he pressed his lips together as if bracing for the answer. I found myself wondering how he’d ever worked his way up the angelic ranks, all the way up to Arch. I’d seen arthritic field hands with more backbone and gumption over the years.
Behind him, Ava had staggered to her feet. Her steps were wobbly and slow, laden with fear. I rolled my eyes, dismissing Remiel with a terse wave. “You aren’t even worth the effort. Unlike you, some of us didn’t revive our energy with an afternoon nap.”
Ava’s shrill scream broke the spell of resentment brewing between us. Alarmed, I rushed to her side, worried that I had somehow mistaken my assessment of Alistair’s condition. Her eyes were flared to comical proportions, almost bulging from their sockets in a state of horror and disbelief. I moved to comfort her, trying to wrap an arm around her trembling shoulders, but she whirled away, her feet scrabbling in an attempt to put distance between us.
“This is not happening! What is going on here?” Tears streamed down her face and she shivered as the onset of shock kicked in.
“Ava . . .” I took a step forward.
Her hand shot up. “Don’t touch me. Tell me what is going on! What just happened here and what the hell is that?”
She pointed to the inanimate corpse on the floor. Slate black eyes stared unseeing at the ceiling. They reflected the fathomless abyss of darkness and despair that had once inhabited the soul. Alistair’s presence had infected the body, and with his demise the flesh began to wither and shrink. The once human face was contorted, the bones displaced beneath the surface. In death, they had shifted to resemble something closer to the demon’s true form as he lie trapped within. The gaping hole in his neck appeared even larger, standing out in vivid contrast against the gaunt, mummy-like remains.
“Him?” I asked, shrugging. “He’s dead.”
Just to be sure, I nudged the putrid miscreation with the toe of my boot. “Quite, in fact.”
“You are not funny, Seir!”
“It was worth a shot.”
I’ve read your poetry and shorts and am always blown away by the dark beauty of your prose. I know how hard it is to struggle for that first book deal. What was your road to publishing success like and how long did it take? How did you find Wynwidyn Press, or did they find you?
Legions? That’s almost as good as having minions! I’ll take it!
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