Category Archives: Interviews

My interviews with people I find interesting.

Jim Gavin Ramblings

I met Jim Gavin a year and a half ago at Hypericon.  After hanging out for for several hours on Saturday night, I came to the conclusion that he’s opinionated, surly, iconoclastic, irreverent, and acerbic as hell.  I liked him instantly. He’s a throwback to a time when men were still allowed to have balls and didn’t have to be sensitive to everyone’s feelings, although he’ll probably chide me for using the phrase throwback. At that time, he was pitching the idea for Hard Boiled Vampire Killers and seemed a little insecure calling himself a “writer” in the presence of pros like Glen Cook. Recently, HBVK was released by Dark Regions Press, officially making him a professional novelist. While I’m not anointed as the official gatekeeper of the craft, I can assure you that Jim Gavin was a real writer well before the book was released, and he’ll be telling stories for as long as he chooses to sit down and write.

To commemorate the release of Hard Boiled Vampire Killers, here’s his first official interview as a pro:

D. A. Adams:  How did you first get interested in writing?  At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue it as a career?

JIM GAVIN:  Like everyone else in this game, I always enjoyed making up stories and reading books since my early days, and I always wanted to be a writer. I say “always” because there’s no single moment of realization – it’s just there. It does grow over time, starting out small, like telling your mother outrageous lies, and growing until at some point you’re 30 and doing an interview about your latest book! But if I had to pick one single thing, or one moment in time – probably when I was a kid and watched an episode of I can’t remember which show, it was probably “The A-Team” – and I saw Stephen J. Cannell at the end of it, smoking his pipe and writing on his typewriter, and he just THROWS the page up in the air with this look on his face like he’s having the time of his life. Right then I realized that there were people who wrote these stories I watched, and it looked to me like the best job in the world. I could go on, but you’ll have to check out the eulogy I wrote on my blog for that

DA:  Yes, I very much enjoyed your eulogy. I too was a big fan of Cannell’s work, and he had a pretty big effect on many of us who grew up just before the explosion of cable and satellite TV, back when there were only five choices of what to watch.  Okay, so along those same lines, who are your biggest literary influences?

GAVIN:  I hate these lists because they always leave people out. I’m going to presume that by “literary” you meant merely the written word and not just Great Literature. Because otherwise my list would look like a high-school reading list from 1950. In no particular order: Spillane, Bester, Conrad, Greene. Understand I’m deliberately picking ones that highlight areas of my reading interest. There are a ton more authors I could put up here, but short lists are better. I also refuse to put up the usual suspects, so just fill ’em in for me, kind of like how on “Wheel of Fortune” they got tired of people picking the same letters for the final puzzle all the time and just gave them to you and let you pick new ones. Like that.

DA:  Outside of literary terms, who else has influenced you?

GAVIN:  Robert Kirkman is a great writer, I love just about every comic book he’s written except for “Walking Dead”. David Mamet, love his dialogue, it’s realistic and bombastic at the same time, that’s what I shoot for. Peckinpah, Carpenter, and Woo because I keep coming back to their movies and finding new themes and new action beats that inspire me.

DA:  We live in one of the most divisive points in our country’s history. What advice can you offer aspiring writers/artists who feel as if their personal views might be an obstacle or a hindrance to their careers for fear of political backlash?

GAVIN:  I think mixing politics and entertainment is a big mistake. All you do is piss off half the people that might have wanted to read you. Now they won’t because they think you’re an asshole. They may even boycott you, harass you, or even worse. Think about Michael Jordan. No one has a bad thing to say about the guy. Did you know he is a big Democrat donor? He doesn’t like to make it widely known. He says, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” This to me is the right attitude. Politics is corrupting, anyway, if you let it in it starts to turn things towards its own ends and it becomes less about what you wanted to say and writing a fun book or making a cool movie and it turns into scoring points, making propaganda, supporting your cause. It can be very subtle about it, too, so you have to watch yourself, unless that’s what you want to do is be a political operative for a cause. And besides it makes the writing worse. You can cheat, be lazy, because everyone who’s on your side will automatically laugh at your jokes and get what you’re saying and give you a 5-star review on Amazon. Who cares what the other side thinks? They don’t know shit, they’re too dumb to think like we do anyway. Ultimately, you’re a tool, not an artist, and you will discarded when you’re no longer useful, which will be a hell of a lot sooner than the amount of time you could keep writing interesting books.

Now, politics is not the same thing as thoughts that you have about Life, Truth, and the Universe. A lot of things have been politicized already, so it’s tough. Good example would be a book I read recently – Anderson Prunty’s Morning is Dead. Abortion plays a good-sized role in the plot of the book – I don’t want to spoil anything obviously. But the main character sees all these women waiting in line at what is basically an abortion factory and he’s like “that’s terrible”. But at the same time it’s not like the main character immediately joins Operation Rescue… or Planned Parenthood. I wonder if Prunty got any shit for this, actually. I took it as the right way to handle stuff like this. Keep focused on the truth of the matter, I mean the essential, capital-T Truth, not the day-to-day political shit you see on the Daily Show every night. You don’t have to have your characters or your stories be neutral. If it comes from a place of truth, presented without snarkiness or rancor, I think people will listen and respect it for the most part, especially if it’s not identified as a political work. People can spot those right away. The thing is, you have to really have deep thoughts about things, read widely, study the classics, things like that. You have to be able to know when you’re talking about something that transcends politics and when you’re not and you just think you are. I’m sure the guys who wrote all these anti-Iraq war movies thought that was what they were doing, or at least some of them did. But they weren’t, and it showed, and people spotted it and no one went to see the movies except people who already held their political views. Compare that to a movie like “The Hurt Locker”. It’s not “Sands of Iwo Jima”, but it sure as hell ain’t “Platoon”.

Bottom line is, avoid this crap unless you want to make writing a hell of a lot harder for yourself. Work up to it as a goal. Because the consequences of failure can be bad if you’re not prepared to accept them. Like Larry Correia, he doesn’t give a crap that people know about his politics,  he thinks the hate mail is funny and figures that people who disagree with him wouldn’t buy his books anyway.

DA:  Switching gears, what drew you to vampires?

GAVIN:  Mostly because I wanted to write more stories about what life is like when you keep a nocturnal schedule, I’d been thinking about that a lot at the time since I’d left my job and was back to a more normal schedule, how different my life had been. And then that shook around in my head with other ideas, like how I wanted to do a story about a vampire hunter because I’ve rarely been happy with them in movies or TV. So initially it was just because if you’re up all night and sleep during the day you automatically think “vampires”. But then as I thought about it more, I began to appreciate the possibilities, how they essentially hold up a mirror to humanity. The vampire has no reflection because he is the reflection. He has to copy us exactly to blend in with us because that’s what parasites do – they’re not predators in the classic sense. But due to their own nature, the fact that they are essentially un-human, it ends up being like a song played on a piano that’s out of tune, or a dubbed movie. It’s not quite right.

Also, I was tired of vampires stepping out into the light a little too much. Now, before I go down this path I should start by saying that I started HBVK 5 or 6 years ago, right after I moved to Atlanta. So I’m not just jumping on the bandwagon with this now – HBVK was a trunk novel for years before a series of events that led to me being here. In short I thought this before it was cool to think this, heh heh. I never liked all these stories where the vampire is a good guy, and he drinks cow blood or whatever. Or no one is a good guy and it’s all about vampires fighting other vampires and they have a weird vampire society and a funky vampire language. Apparently stories about badass vampire hunters that hunt and kill the living dead were cliche. Except they weren’t, all this crap out there now is the cliche, it’s old and I’m sick of people acting like it is new, different, and edgy.

And I like the rules. Vampires in western and eastern cultures tend to have a lot of rules that other supernatural creatures don’t. I think that’s cool, it makes for interesting possibilities depending on which ones you keep for your story. Most of these other beasties, all you hear is how to kill them. Can a werewolf enter a church? Is there something that repels zombies? Apparently no one gives a shit. Again I think this is because of how connected they are to humanity and to society – they have their own rules they have to obey that seem arbitrary and dumb to us. Vampires without those rules don’t make sense and smack of teenage fantasy – well, don’t get me started on that.

DA:  Do you have a specific writing process and/or ritual that you use?

GAVIN:  Not really in the sense of “I must have/do this before/while/after writing”. I have patterns I fall into, though. I’ll usually pour a short drink and read what I wrote over last, picking out the spelling errors, making different word choices. by the time I get to the end I’m usually ready to continue the story. It helps a lot if I have some music to listen to that’s the “theme music” for whatever I’m working on – very often part of my inspiration for a story is a particular song. That was the case with HBVK. Other than that I keep it simple, just try to write as much as I can as often as I can, shooting for every day, just getting words on a page. It’s hard for me to take seriously the people who have their special writing hat and their special writing corner or whatever. The more pro a writer is, the less you hear about that kind of stuff, and I think there’s a reason for that. Process-wise, I just start at the beginning and write until I get to the end. Sometimes if I’m having trouble I will skip ahead to the scene I REALLY want to write, and then go back and fill it in. I don’t use outlines or storyboard or anything like that while I’m writing. Then, when I’m working on another draft, I will start thinking about concepts in the book, themes, threads I may have forgotten about, stuff like that. The first draft for me is basically almost like automatic writing. I don’t sit there and think about “How best does this express the book’s themes?” when I’m writing about, say,  my hero kung-fu fighting a bunch of dudes. I find those later and then work on bringing those things out and hopefully making them coherent thoughts that give the writing some depth without being preachy or annoying. I really surprise myself sometimes with the stuff I come up with! Like with Edmund Ma, I just wanted to create a character who it was believable would be sort of a kung-fu neophyte who gets introduced to this world so we can follow him and discover it for ourselves. And I ended up writing a story through him about what it’s like to finally decide to be a grown-up, leave your childhood and all that stuff behind, become a man. Ty was just supposed to be a classic hard-drinking private eye, but a vampire hunter instead. Then on his way home he started wandering around so that he had an excuse not to go back to his apartment because his girlfriend would be there, and it turned out it was because his girlfriend was a vampire. Stuff like that is why I don’t mess with process, I don’t fetishize it either, I just respect it. I think it sounds a little silly and pretentious to say things like, “I just follow my characters around”, but King said that so I guess that makes it okay, and it’s what I do most of the time.

DA:  Realistically, where would you like your career to be in five to ten years?

GAVIN:  In 5 years or so I’d like to have at least 5 published books of whatever length, movie options bought on at least one of those, have written or be working on a comic book project, have a mass market deal or be within striking distance of one, have an agent. I’d at least like to know a hell of a lot more people, and have some more great memories.

DA:  Do you have any upcoming appearances at conventions?

GAVIN:  I’ll be at WorldHorrorCon 2011 in Austin, TX. Other than that I may do more, I don’t know all the good cons to go to yet and which ones I’ll be able to make. I’d like to make Hypericon again, NECon sounds interesting … I’d do a con every month if I could. All I can say is watch the blog.

DA:  Now that Hard Boiled Vampire Killers is out, do you have any more projects forthcoming?

GAVIN:  Yes, I have a novella coming out next year and launching at WHC, with Dark Regions Press, part of their new novella series. It’s called Arena of the Wolf and it’s about a trucker werewolf who gets captured and forced to perform in a rodeo where they use werewolves instead of broncos or bulls. It’s sort of like Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia meets Convoy with some Carlos Castaneda elements to it, and a classic 70s country music soundtrack. I think people will really dig it, I had a lot of fun writing it and I think it shows. I wanted it to have a real grindhouse/exploitation movie feel to it and I think that comes through on the page.

DA:  How can your fans find you?

GAVIN: is my blog, it also has links to all my other social networking sites. The official fan page is where I post all announcements so be sure to sign up for that on Facebook.

DA:  Any parting thoughts?

GAVIN:  Thanks for the interview. Also thanks to everyone who helped make this book happen, and most of all to those who have already bought it and who have yet to buy it, hell, even thanks to those who steal it off the internet because they want to read it. It took a lot of work but I still feel lucky to be where I am right now.

Billy Tackett Ramblings

Billy Tackett has been dubbed “The Creepiest Artist in America,” and it’s not just because he grew up in Kentucky.  In addition to being creepy, he’s also pretty damn talented.  Wherever he goes, he’s followed by hoards of moaning, drooling, shuffling fans, but he’s much more than just a zombie artist.

Here is our interview:

D. A. Adams:  What is your first memory of painting, and then when did you realize that you wanted to be a professional?

BILLY TACKETT: I’ve always drawn but the realization that I was different happened around the age of 11 or so. And then it was because everybody started telling me I was good. To me it was just what I did. I’m not sure what really happened around that time, it could have been that my skills took a great leap or that I started putting my art out there more. I’m leaning towards the latter because I recently found a book I had as a kid in which I had attempted to recreate the front cover inside the front cover. And it wasn’t too bad!

During my teenage years I started seeing all this great album art from groups like Iron Maiden and Megadeth as well as book covers like Lumley’s Necroscope series and it clicked; People actually get paid to do cool stuff like this! That somewhere out there there’s somebody that will hand over cash to draw the same stuff I was drawing at the time. And it was a little after that time that I also realized that drawing was quite possibly the only thing I was good at so I really had no choice.

An author and screenwriter by the name of J. Neil Schulman gave me my first opportunity as an illustrator doing covers for his company Pulpless back in 1999. I haven’t looked back!

DA:  What kinds of materials do you use, and why did you choose them?

BILLY: I have given most traditional mediums a try at some point in my career. I have pretty much settled in on oils, pencil and ink. I also use Photoshop a little but that is primarily for design work and a few specialty projects. I think as an artist you really don’t choose the medium but that it chooses you. I feel as though I had fumbled around trying different things for years and finally got the nerve to give oils a try. I should have tried them years earlier! It all just clicked. I feel as though each piece of art is a problem to be solved. If one chooses to use watercolors to solve the problem it requires a certain mindset whereas if one chooses oils as the means to solve the problem the approach is different and so on. For the problem to be solved successfully the medium must match the artist’s mind. I know it’s pretty esoteric stuff but it’s really the only way I can explain the connection I feel with some mediums and not others.

DA:  Can you describe your creative process from the moment of inspiration to the completed piece?  On average, how long do you spend on a piece?

BILLY: Since I do a lot of commissioned illustrations the inspiration usually comes from a brainstorming session with the client and sometimes the ideas just hit me and sometimes the ideas are like pulling teeth! Once the idea has been established I’ll do a really rough sketch exactly as I see it in my head without giving it much thought. I’ll take the idea and ask myself  how I can take this and make it interesting. Moving stuff around, zooming in, cropping, creative lighting, more action, less action etc. After I’ve gathered all my reference photos I’ll do a semi-finished drawing, scan it and then transfer it to the actual size I’ll be rendering it. The semi-finished drawing allows me to work out any problems I hadn’t thought of in the rough sketch phase. From there I’ll either complete the drawing or I’ll begin painting. And the entire time the creative process is a fluid thing. I can’t let myself get attached to one part of the piece because as I move along I may have to alter it or remove it if necessary.

DA:  Some of your most popular pieces involve taking iconic images from Americana and re-imagining them through a Zombie filter.  Where did the inspiration for that motif come from?  Was there a specific moment when you began doing that or was it a gradual process?

BILLY: The original piece, the black & white ink rendering of Zombie Sam which can be seen all over the internet now, was originally done for a publication called Fleshrot which was an anthology style graphic novel type book. I really don’t know where the idea came from. I just needed a one page zombie image and I probably just thought it was cool. It became pretty popular and I Zombie Sam would be a good candidate for my new found oil painting skills. He was completed for my very first convention appearance. After a few shows his popularity had grown so much that I decided a companion would be a good idea. Thus was the birth of Fannie the Flesheater, my zombified Rosie the Riveter. And the I decided to do another. Since I’m very patriotic I decided to stick with the American theme came up with the name Dead White & Blue. With the positive reactions the paintings have been getting I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon!

You can even look forward to Dead White & Blue graphic novel later this year as well as other cool merchandise.

DA:  Who are your biggest artistic influences?

BILLY: Artistically speaking Norman Rockwell, horror artist Basil Gogos, Marvel cover artist Bob Larkin, legendary Gene Colan and Jack Kirby, pulp fiction artist Norman Saunders, Iron Maiden’s Derek Riggs and the one and only Bob Eggleton.

DA:  Outside of art, what else has influenced and/or inspired you?

BILLY: The spoof magazines Mad, Cracked & Crazy, old horror flicks (especially low budget ones!), 70’s comic books, 70s and 80s rock n roll, and cartoons. When I think back these are what comes to mind first.  I think the Mad Magazine type publications is where my sense of humor came from. I never realized until recently that my Dead White & Blue series draws direct inspiration from this form of literature and art.

DA:  You spend a lot of time on the Con circuit.  Can you describe what a Con weekend means to you?  What’s your favorite aspect of fandom and what could you live without?

BILLY:  A con weekend is stressful. The week before we have to get prints and other merchandise re-stocked and get the van packed and travel reservations confirmed. Actual travel is pretty good. My wife Heather usually sleeps and I always have an audio book to listen to. Then we get there, usually late, and we have to set up. Our display and inventory keeps getting bigger and bigger as does the set up headaches. After that it’s great everything’s great. Always meeting interesting people. We’ve been doing this so much that now it seems no matter what show, no matter what city we’re always meeting up with old friends. Getting to hang out after hours is quite possibly my favorite time of the show.

I think my favorite aspect of fandom and my least favorite aspect is the same thing. Our society seems to be so fad oriented that it’s hard to find anyone that is truly into one or two things. We are very ADD and we’re always on the look out for that next big sparkly thing to latch on to. But I meet so many people that are so passionate about one or two things, be it as general as zombies or sci-fi or as specific as Star Trek or X-men, and they love what they love so much. And talking to them is amazing because this passion shows through. It’s hard to find that sparkle in peoples eyes out on the streets.

On the flip side of that coin people can get so wrapped up in their own little corner of fandom that they can miss out on a lot of other cool stuff. Or worse, they may regard everything else as irrelevant and silly. I have had people at horror cons dismiss me because I don’t have a lot of fan art from horror movies. Or at sci-fi/fantasy shows they may think that I do only zombies and refuse to see all the other types of art I do.

Fandom passion: good. Fandom closed mindedness: bad.

DA:  Any final thoughts you’d like to share with your fans?  How can people find you and your work online?

BILLY:  I’d just like to thank you guys for digging my stuff. I’m very blessed that I can do what I love and make a living out of it. And that’s because of you zombie-lovin’ freaks out there!

My website is I’m on Facebook, Twitter and all that nerdy stuff. Links to that are on my homepage. That’s where you can also find the listing of where we’ll be for the rest of the year. We’ve been given the opportunity to be guests at shows in Toronto and Seattle later this year so that will give us the opportunity to zombify whole new groups of folks! And keep your eyes peeled for my book For The Love Of Monsters that will be available in a couple months.

Andy Deane Ramblings

For my readers who aren’t familiar with him, Andy Deane is the lead singer of Bella Morte and author of The Sticks.

Here is our interview:

D. A. Adams:  How old were you when you first got involved with music?  Can you remember what the original allure was?

Andy Deane:  Well, if you want to go all the way back to me doing a shitty job of applying make-up to try and look like my favorite guy in KISS, Gene Simmons, I’ll say five or six.  My mom sang all the time when I was a kid as did the rest of the family on her side. So, I was just surrounded by it from the time I understood what music was.  Singing was natural to me, something I assumed everyone did.

DA:  Can you describe your creative process for music?

Andy:  A melody will jump into my head for no reason at all at the oddest times.  Like, an idea for a ballad will strike me while I’m walking down the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. I don’t know why the hell it happens, but I guess I’m glad it does.  Once I get back to my studio I often start by laying down some simple chords set to a loop and build on that foundation until I finish the song.  I write most of my vocal melodies by singing nonsense in a stream of conscience fashion, then apply words to what I come up with.

DA:  How was developing a solo project different from playing with your band?

Andy:  Things happen a lot faster when I’m flying solo as The Rain Within.  I write the song and add the vocals, record it as I go.  As a band, we collaborate, so sometimes I’ll wait for Tony to write his guitar line before I solidify what I’m doing vocally.  And the recording process requires a lot of coordinating schedules and such.  There are advantages to both methods.  I love being surprised by a new riff or drum beat one of the guys in Bella Morte will deliver, sometimes forcing me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve probably added an octave to my range over the years because of it.

DA:  You’ve stated that you started writing novels just to pass the time while touring with the band, but what made you choose writing as opposed to say photography or painting?

Andy:  I never started painting because I suck at it.  Really, I got to third grade and my talent as a visual artist slammed on the brakes and hasn’t budged.  Even my stick figures look like refried dogshit.  As for photography, I just never took an interest in it.  Writing was, like music, something I’ve loved since I was young.  I’ve been writing short stories for as long as I can remember, and my dad was called in to speak with the school guidance counselor in 1st, 9th and 12th grade due to their content.  I tell you, teachers do not like hearing about humans being carved up, that’s for damn sure.  My first novel, The Sticks, started as a short story and just kept growing as I’d kill time in the van traveling from city to city.

DA:  Since music is typically a collaborative effort and writing is primarily a solitary endeavor (just the writing, not the editing and publishing), can you explain the difference in your creative process for writing your novels?

Andy:  You know, writing a novel was the first artistic endeavor I ever undertook completely on my own, and I think the process is what got me wanting to record a solo album.  But yeah, the two are very different.  With writing, aside from my editor there’s no one I have to cooperate with on a tough decision.  What comes out of my head goes onto paper and that’s the end of the discussion.  Bella Morte doesn’t release a song until all the members are happy with it, so sometimes you’ll lose a battle about where a song should go or what chords should make up the chorus.

DA:  What’s it like to juggle success in such vastly different media?

Andy:  I would consider it much more of a struggle if I were only doing one or the other.  My bands give me an outlet for my books and a group of fans who want to read it based on their interest in my music.  It works the other way too.  I don’t know that The Sticks would have sold so well was it not for word spreading so quickly through the Bella Morte fanbase.  The fans read and liked it, and told their friends about it.

DA:  Whether we’re discussing music, writing, or life in general, who are your biggest influences?

Andy:  My dad has had the biggest influence on me.  He’s a great guy, and the hardest worker I’ve ever known.  He gave me a lot of freedom as a kid, let me choose my own path.  Makes you wonder what the hell he was thinking. (grins)

DA:  I can honestly say that you are one of the most friendly, most down to earth people I’ve met, yet at the same time, also one of the most vivacious and charismatic.  How do you manage that balance?

Andy:  It’s a unique concoction of exfoliating creams and crack cocaine.  Ha!  But really, I’m just myself.  I’ve never tried to be anyone I’m not, and I don’t seem to have the ability to tone down my behavior for anything.  I guess I just feel lucky.  I’m not rich, but I’m getting paid to make music and write stories.  That’s pretty damn awesome if you ask me, and I’m thankful as hell to the folks out there who’ve made it possible.

DA:  What’s your most memorable moment from your career so far?  How did that experience affect you?

Andy:  Well, one time when the band was on tour in Salt Lake City we stopped in to Wendy’s for a bite to eat.  One of the guys went to the bathroom, came out red-faced and laughing, told me I needed to go take a look.  Long story short, what I saw in that bathroom will forever be branded on my memory. A severely obese man stood before, covered, literally, from head to toe in his own feces, wearing nothing but a pair of sneakers.  This scene will absolutely appear in one of my upcoming novels.  Absolutely.  Ahem.  Aside from that, stepping onto stage for the first time in Europe was a big deal, a true feeling of accomplishment.  Holding a Bella Morte CD in my hand for the first time.  Receiving my first printed copy of The Sticks.  And then there are the bad times that are so meaningful in retrospect, like when our van broke down in the middle of the desert and we had to scramble to find a way out of a seemingly hopeless situation to get to the next show.  It was scary, but we kept one another’s spirits up, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop laughing about it now that it’s behind us.  It’s times like that that show you who your real friends are.

DA:  What would you like your fans to know about you as a person?

Andy:  That I’m a normal dude.  That I’m approachable.

DA:  Any parting thoughts?

Andy:  Well, since we’re both Steelers fans, let’s hope for a 7th title this season!  Also, I’ve got several releases coming out this year:  Thunderstorm Books is releasing my novella The Third House this spring and my novel All the Darkness in the World in the fall.  I’ve got a solo album under the name “The Rain Within” hitting stores this summer and a new Bella Morte album coming this fall.  Everyone reading this needs all of these things. Desperately.

DA:  How can your fans find you?

Andy:  My website is, my twitter account can be found at  Or they can do a search for me on Facebook.  Also, I am often spotted at Taco Bell franchises around the country between noon and one, and five and six.