Author Robert Stava and I met 5 years ago at a writer’s group I cobbled together. The group lasted about a year, but I’m glad he and I have become good friends. He’s a renaissance kind of guy – writer, artist, musician, historian, martial artist. I wouldn’t bat an eye if he told me he’d climbed Everest while balancing the US budget.
Amazingly, both of us ended up having books published by Severed Press – all this done without the other knowing we were submitted manuscripts there. Great minds, great minds…
Robert’s premier book with Severed, NIGHTMARE FROM WORLD’S END, recently came out and it’s a doozy! Here’s my 10 cent review – “Move over Nessie and Champ, there’s a new kick ass lake monster in town! Nightmare from World’s End is a sharp, intelligent, witty and wild ride across the turbid waters of the Hudson River. Set in author Robert Stava’s mysterious Wyvern Falls, this is one monster tale not to be missed because you get not one, but TWO underwater leviathans duking it out. And God help the puny humans who dare not just go in the water, but even near it. The last act blew my mind. Treat yourself and grab a copy.“
So, let’s get to know Robert and this awesome book a little, shall we?
Please tell my Hellions what your latest book, Nightmare from World’s End, is all about and the sheer bat crap insanity that you somehow managed to tie together.
It’s a spin on the usual sea-monster tale, in this case not one but two that turn up in the Hudson River at an inopportune time – on the eve of a major Folk Festival at the local river town of Wyvern Falls. It mainly comes down to two people, an expat British detective named Easton and an American Indian Archeologist named Sarah Ramhorne to save the day. Along the way they get tangled up with a corrupt mayor, a failing Ancient Alien TV show host and some overzealous activists. For starters.
As far as how I tied it all together: truth is I pretty much winged it. Luckily it was one of those instances that just spun itself out in the right fashion without much thought or editing. I wish every story came out that easy!
I love the true history that you weave into your tales. This time, we got quite the education on American Indians in New York’s Westchester County. How did you go about researching everything?
It’s a MacGyver approach: a little this, some chewing gum there, a little masking tape here, etc. I grew up with books on the Wyandot & Iroquois (and knew several) but knew next to nothing about the Hudson River Indians outside some vague misinformation. Since moving up here to Ossining however, I took a keen interest and did everything from attending lectures at Croton Point given by the NY State Archeologist Association, going through artifacts in our Historical Society collection and reaching out to the descendants of the tribes that once lived here. They’re in Oklahoma now, btw. It’s a tragic story and they had a few choice things to say. Also, I put all the American Indian history books I used into the afterword of the novel. A lot of times it just about getting out and talking to people. That bizarre scene where Easton meets the American Indian vendor talking to him about Atlantis and lost technologies? That really happened to me at an Indian Pow-Wow I attended. You can’t make this stuff up.
It’s so awesome to have you as a publishing mate at Severed Press, the land of sea monsters! What made you decide to dip your toes in these brackish waters? And how did you come up with the monstrous Ossie? Any truth in the legend?
It is awesome – I had no idea when I submitted the manuscript! I was combing through stuff at my job one day and saw they were looking for submissions, and realized I already had a completed novel right up their alley. They accepted it pretty fast, which had me a little suspicious after so many rejections from other publishers. When I got the low-down from yourself I realized I had lucked out. Call it serendipity.
‘Ossie’ came from an off-hand remark my wife made one day while we were having lunch out by the river. I saw something out there – it might have been a cormorant – that reminded me of the classic 30s ‘Nessie” pic, so I snapped a zoom photo of it. When I showed it to my wife she replied, in that matter-of-fact way she has, “Oh, that’s ‘Ossie’!”. I’m sure an evil grin stole across my face as I then said “Yes, yes…of course it is…and I bet Ossie likes people – because they taste just like chicken!” That’s how my mind rolls.
I don’t know if there’s any truth to the legend, but who can rule anything out? There’s all kinds of species in the ocean we have no idea existed. Part of the inspiration behind ‘Typhon’ was this horrifying giant ‘sea bug’ – a 30” isopod -that was discovered a few years back that came up clinging to a submersible in the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone thought it was a hoax. It wasn’t until 2013 that a giant squid was finally caught on film. I think there’s plenty of other things down there we know nothing about (shudder).
After this book, I don’t think you’re ever going to get a call to appear on Ancient Aliens. Which is not a bad thing. Do you watch the show? What do you think of the ancient astronaut theory?
Ha! Probably not. I loved that stuff as a kid, but it all falls apart under any kind of basic logical scrutiny. Most these guys are nuttier than a crate of pistachios. They only focus on what ‘evidence’ supports their conclusions and refuse to acknowledge any other possible explanations, which is hardly scientific. That said, I do believe alien life is out there and can testify to a UFO I witnessed as a kid. Also, while researching the non-fiction book I wrote on my uncle’s WWII experiences in the Southwest Pacific, I came across a folder of very unusual reports in the National Archives. It was a series of 5th Air Force eye-witness reports on UFO’s spotted from airplane observation posts in New Guinea in 1943-44, well before Roswell. Throughout my novel though, it’s all part of a running joke: the characters keep getting distracted by the hoaxes happening to one side while completely missing the very real phenomena occurring on the other. I suspect the truth about aliens is somewhat like that.
Stephen King has Castle Rock, you have Wyvern Falls. What the hell is up with that place? Why would anyone live there? It’s fascinating, but bad for your health.
It was originally inspired by ‘Twin Peaks’, actually! And obviously the many scenic towns up and down here along the Hudson. I was drawing up a helpful ‘50 things you should NEVER DO in Wyvern Falls’ user guide but haven’t completed to date. But there’s lots of reasons to live there – it’s a place where truly weird shit can happen, and isn’t there a part of all of us that longs for that affirmation? That there’s more to the world than 401k’s, vanishing retirement options and the dreariness of everything being logically explained by a bunch of people you dread hanging out with by the water cooler? Fear is the antidote to complacency. The supernatural is about faith in things beyond our comprehension. I’ve experienced both those things in varying amounts: Wyvern Falls is about a place where you can too.
Okay, I’m going to pepper you with some quick hits :
- Favorite band – The Who. Nobody attacks the drums like Keith Moon.
- Dream spot to write – My library – what could be more inspirational?
- Craziest celebrity encounter – I’ve had some pretty good ones over the years, especially living in NYC. One of the craziest though, was a conversation I got into with Lenny Kravitz at a party years back at the studio control room in the Edison Hotel (a famous midtown studio where Jazz greats like Charlie Parker recorded). He’d bought the place with an advertising partner. I was pretty blotto from the open bar when I ran into him and started running off about Cindy Blackman, whom I’d met a few times though my old drummer, Tedd. Kravitz was nothing at all what I’d imagined from his videos. He was like a shy, dysfunctional little kid. He stared at his toes the whole time we were talking, though he did tell me some interesting things I won’t repeat here. After about 15 minutes he awkwardly reached out, shook my hand and said “Hi. I’m Lenny!” I said, “Uh, hi, I’m Bob. Nice talking to you,” and left. I must have talked a good game though, as a few days later a marketing package showed up at my office from him and his partner, which included some of Kravitz’s demos. I still have it here somewhere.
- Favorite horror movie – Tie between ‘American Werewolf in London’ and ‘Dead Alive’ – both had me simultaneously freaked out and laughing my ass off. But the scariest movies I’ve ever watched was ‘Session 9’ and “Jacob’s Ladder”. Do not watch either at 3 a.m. Very bad idea.
- Beer of choice – Sapporo
Last but not least, what new delights do you have in store for your readers?
Well, the next two novels in the Wyvern Falls series are written so we’ll see where those get to. I’m currently writing a second novel for Severed Press which is due out his year – it’s a visit to classic Crichton territory titled “The Lost World of Kharamu”, there’s a new short “The Witchering”, coming out in Dark Chapter Press’s “Edge of Darkness” anthology and I’m waiting to hear on 3 novellas that were rewritten for Sinister Grin Press a few months back. At least one, “The Invasion” is slated for a 2017 release from them, last I heard. Fingers crossed, just in case!