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Interview: Andre Duza, April 2014

Andre Duza

We recently caught up with Andre Duza, the author of Necro Sex Machines and Jesus Freaks. Duza’s work has been published in many magazines, including Undead and Chainsaw Magazine. At the beginning of this interview, Andre speaks bravely and honestly of a traumatic childhood experience, which was the catalyst to writing from a very young age. Reader discretion is advised.     

What attracted you to writing horror – did a particular author influence you?

For me, it started with a traumatic event when I was eight. I spent the next few years in therapy as a result. My mom kept me in the house where I read and watched TV voraciously. The first horror novels I remember reading were a one, two punch of The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Both were presented as being, on some level, based on a true story. I became fascinated with ‘true’ horror and crime stories with a supernatural bent, because after what I had experienced, I felt that I could relate to the victims in these supposed real life scenarios. This scared me more than an alien or monster for instance. Although, I have to admit, ‘Jodi’ as described in Jay Anson’s book gave me the fucking creeps when I was a kid.

The problem was, I liked being scared. I liked the rush. My therapist said that I associated the rush with the feelings I had regarding the past event, and doing this was a way of facing down that painful memory.

When I finally got out of the house, I would go to the movies as much as possible, and oftentimes by myself. I carried a concealed weapon or weapons with me everywhere I went. This was during the golden age of the Slasher Film. While I liked a wide range of horror films, I found myself identifying with the villains in Slasher Films, who were often put-upon social misfits who, through some accident years ago at the hands of alpha male/female stereotypes, were horribly disfigured. I attended a boarding school at the time. Boarding schools were often used as the settings for these films. I started to see male authority figures as my ‘alpha stereotypes’. I attacked one teacher with a meat cleaver, another with a hockey stick. I pulled a 13” survival knife on my grandfather. When I was 17, I threw him through a glass door. Around the same time, I chased a close friend down the hall with that same 13” survival Knife dipped in fibreglass resin and set ablaze. And I was serious. Don’t ask.

The fibreglass resin came from a model of the queen from Aliens that I was trying to build at the time. For awhile I was heavily into make up FX. Even made a few masks.

One of the exercises the therapist had me perform was to fill out a daily journal. I had done it years ago with a previous therapist, but this time it stuck. Instead of acting outwardly, I started venting my unresolved issues via the daily journal. Eventually I got bored with the tedious process, but knowing that it was one of the few things (aside from boxing, and making people laugh) that kept me calm, I started to embellish the daily entries to make things more interesting. It got to the point where I was completely making up stories. And here we are.

Some other influences include: Joe R. Lansdale, Robert McCammon, Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Ni Kuang, Rod Serling, John Carpenter, George Romero, Dario Argento, John Waters, Sergio Leone, Shaw Brothers Kung Fu, Blaxploitation Cinema, Marvel Comics, Rakim, KRS One, Public Enemy, The Cramps, Led Zeppelin, Goblin, Pino Donaggio, Ennio Morricone.

Having said all that, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some intense, brooding artist who walks around with a dark cloud over my head. I’ve got my dark side, and it’s DARK. No pun intended. But writing, and kung fu, and my wife’s magical booty helped me to channel all that shit into something productive. And I’m also a very social guy. I like people. We all live on this planet together so I’d rather get to know my neighbours rather than exist in a bubble and make assumptions based on ignorance.

You say a ‘traumatic event’ was the catalyst to horror/graphic writing. Do you mind elaborating?

Am I willing to elaborate?

My initial reaction was no. It’s not that I have a problem talking about my past. Hell, I’ll talk about anything, with anyone. But it’s a heavy story; the kind of story that sucks all the air out of the room and leaves everybody feeling uncomfortable. Then comes the pity. I hate pity.

Like it or not, that single event is more responsible for who I am today than anything else.

And there are a lot of people out there (men and women) who aren’t lucky enough to have ‘survived’ this kind of thing mentally. For those folks maybe my talking about it will help them realise that it is possible to overcome the anger, the shame, the self-doubt and all of the other residual effects of such a horrific experience that people who haven’t experienced it aren’t privy to.

For the record, my method of overcoming it was to face down the anger, the shame, the self- doubt, and the jarring memories for all of their ugliness. To own it, thus robbing it of its power. If a bad memory popped into my head, my thinking was something like, “Fuck you bad memory! Trying to haunt me. I should be haunting YOU!”

So. Yes. I’d be glad to elaborate…

It was around 10am on a Sunday morning. I was walking to the bus stop on 54th and Whitby Ave to catch the bus for church. I was 8.

A guy walks past me. About 10 minutes later he comes walking toward me again, which meant that he had to have circled the block, but none of that registered to my dense little ass at that point. The guy walks up to me and asks – get this – if I’d help him carry something from his house.

Yeah. I know. Pretty fucking gullible, right? If you knew the weird, Godly, Mickey Mouse, Norman Bates world I was living in up to that point, you’d understand.

So, I agreed to help the guy. He leads me to an abandoned house. I walk in, like a dumbass. I’m looking around trying to make sense of things when I notice (after the fact) that he had picked up a door that was lying on the floor and placed it over the front doorway, blocking the entrance. He walks up to me, unzips his pants and says, “You’re going to suck my dick.”

I laughed. Seriously. I kept laughing until he pulled out a gun (a .38) and told me that he’d kill me if I didn’t do what he said.

I spent the next two hours hyper-focused on the fact that I was going to die, how it was going to feel, how I would never see my family again, blah, blah, blah. During this two hour span, I was literally in hell.

I remember spending the rest of the day afterward on a weird high simply because I had survived. I seriously did not see that coming. I actually went to church afterward, waved to my mom from the altar, even. She waved back, unaware.

I was an altar boy back then, a fact that I’m more embarrassed about than the incident.

It wasn’t until I was walking home from church with a fellow altar boy named Robert Harris (whose father eventually taught me boxing), that I told anyone about it. It came out very matter of fact. Horrified by my weird, smiling account, Robert rushed me home. He told my mom, and that’s when the shit hit the fan. The next few months were a blur of mugshots, police line-ups, court hearings (one where the molester’s wife glared at me the entire time), and therapy sessions.

Was the person who caused the event ever prosecuted?

Yes. He turned out to be a serial child molester. I think he got 12 years. Not nearly enough. There was a time in my life when I trained with the sole focus of exacting slow and painful vengeance on this guy upon his release from prison. To be honest, I think that’s what made me excel at martial arts. It’s certainly what led to bodybuilding and the rampant steroid use in my late teens/early 20s. Funny story… Well, maybe funny isn’t the right word, but… I remember when I was eight and I had to go to courthouse to be deposed. I was scared shitless. My mom had to bribe me with a nice lunch afterward and a week of going to the movies. When we got to the courthouse there were several children, around my age, waiting in the hall with their parents for the same reason. I saw another kid from my block, a good friend, whom I had played with several times between the incident and that day. Neither of us had any idea that we were connected by this thing. It was a weird moment. Both good and bad.

Is this the first time you have spoken publicly about it?

I have spoken about it in previous interviews, but never in such detail. Like I said, I worry that people will think I’m somehow minimising child molestation or that I’m using it for sympathy sales. Here comes Duza with his sob story. But it’s not a sob story. It’s an origin story.

Thanks for sharing this harrowing experience with us, Andre.

technicolor-terroristsTell us a bit about the new novel. Did a personal experience or a fear of clowns spur the birth of Technicolor Terrorists?

Other than my kids, no.

I simply wanted to put my own, personal stamp on the killer clown sub-genre. I’m going to get a bit spoilery here, but the idea was that we didn’t create them (clowns). They were already here. They are the things assigned to construct and haunt our dreams. They operate by dream-like physics which is to say that, as with dreams, there are really no rules. Some have chosen to hide out among us humans, underneath a mask of human flesh. But they just can’t seem to get it right. You pass them in the street every day. You see them on TV. Some might even be in your family.

The Ton Brothers are purists. They are part of a growing faction that views clowns hiding out as humans as sellouts to be exposed and dealt with.

What kind of impact do the Toxic Brothers Travelling Carnival have on the book?

Despite its fall at the end of The Holy Ghost Claw, the Toxic Brothers Carnival is the backbone of the book. It’s the thread that ties all of the chapters and characters who live in them together.

Is Technicolor Terrorists strictly set in the bizarro genre?

Well, yes and no. While Technicolor Terrorists and Indo and The Killer Rockstar are definitely bizarre, Holy Ghost Claw, Papercuts, and Drug Runnin’ Blues all seem relatively straight-forward to me.

Nothing I write is purposely set in one genre. I don’t sit down and say, “Okay. What kind of weird, bizarre concept can I come up with today?”

I might start with a concept that’s dark in nature and a little weird, because I’m a weirdo. However, on any given day a person can experience joy, sadness, titillation, terror, etc, so that’s how I approach storytelling. People like to call it a ‘genre mash-up,’ but I call it life.

Do you feel Technicolor Terrorists bare any similarities to the cult-classic horror film, Killer Klowns From Outer Space?

Not really, other than the fact that both stories contain clowns who kill people, and Nick Percival’s cover art which was done as a sort of homage to the film.

I did pitch the novel to Jeff Burk at Deadite Press as something that would be on a double-bill with Killer Klowns at a Midnight Movie Theatre.

With Technicolor Terrorists behind you, have you stared writing your next big hit, and, if so, are there any titbits of information you are willing to reveal?

I’m currently working on a novel with Wayne [Simmons] entitled Voodoo Chile, after the Hendrix song. It’s a fun, 80s throwback with a twist. It’s Friday the 13th part 2, meets The Town That Dreaded Sundown, meets The Blair Witch Project, meets a southern-fried Evil Dead.

My next novel WZMB will be released in December by Deadite Press. The book is set in a radio station, where a Howard Stern-like Shock Jock broadcasts his popular show during a zombie apocalypse. Wayne also played a role in the book’s inception. I originally wrote WZMB as a short for the special edition of his novel Flu. I liked the story so much I decided to expand it.

I have two more novels (Sex, Drugs, and Disembodied Things and NoFace) that are still making the rounds. I’ve also been speaking with Jeff Burk about possibly doing a coffee-table-style book featuring artwork from Bizarro releases at some point. I think that would be a blast. I have a few other books at various stages of completion. They are as follows.

  • Killer Priest
  • Infect the President
  • King Pigeon – My wife’s favourite
  • Medusa in High Heels
  • Teeth Floating in Darkness – NoFace Sequel
  • Beatdown
  • I F-ing Hate Clowns! – The Ton Brothers Novel
  • Angler Shark
  • Fairy Dust
  • My Pimphand is Strong!

In a perfect world, I’d have all the time in the world to finish those titles. However, something always comes along and forces you to re-evaluate and alter your plans. This time it’s the opportunity to write the screenplay for, and act in Toolbox Murders 3.

I’ve been toiling on the fringes of film writing (and acting) for some time now. Deals have come and gone, but it looks like things are finally starting to pan out. I turned in a pitch that was a very Duza-fied, left-field approach to the Toolbox Murders mythos, which they liked. Wish me luck.

With Dead Bitch Army being your most notable work, could you tell us what inspired the storyline?

It started as a short story called ‘More Beautiful Than’. It was about a lonely mortician who falls in love with the corpse of a woman (Mary) who he’s charged with embalming. He steals her body, dresses it, and props her in the attic, which he has turned into a shrine to her. When he’s not working, he spends his every waking moment with her, treating her as if she’s alive. As time goes on, the mortician does his best to preserve Mary’s body, but she is decaying by the day. Eventually the mortician meets and falls in love with the grieving daughter (Tasha) of a man he’s charged with embalming. Jealousy brings Mary back to life.

I was living in Ohio after college, working as a bouncer in the only club that catered to the alternative crowd while working on the story. To some folks in town ‘alternative’ or ‘gay’ equated to molesting children.

A lot of the people who came to the club had to hide their alternative personas during the day, but in the club they could let it all hang out. A couple of those people became the source material for Mary’s crew and the club itself was the inspiration for the rave. I also met my wife there when she was hired as a Daisy Dukes-wearing bartender. Now, the fact she was white did not go over well with some of the locals, but I was so steroided out at the time that no one ever said anything to my face. It would always be stuff yelled from a passing car. Then, we moved back to Philly and the bullshit came from the other side, and again, usually yelled from a passing car. Did I mention this was around the time of the O.J. Simpson trial? So, a lot of the insults pertained to O.J. Simpson.

Around the same time I was toying with the idea of expanding ‘More Beautiful Than’. I guess all those things helped to shape the story into what it eventually became. It was a surreal, intense, confusing time, and I think that came through in the book.

What is your greatest piece of work, and why should people pick up a Andre Duza novel? 

I haven’t written it yet.

Because I’m fun. I’m a bit twisted and unpredictable. I go down smooth. And I leave a lasting impression.

Thank you for joining us Andre. 

DAVID OWAIN HUGHES

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