Interview: BC Furtney, December 2013. Part II

BC Furtney December

BC Furtney is the author of Scarla, Maimstream, and You, Me, and the Devil Makes Three, published by Comet Press, as well as the writer/director of Do Not Disturb and the upcoming Werewolf Rises, produced by Ruthless Pictures. He resides in a southern outlaw compound, off the grid and far from the bright lights. Just the way he likes it. Michael Wilson caught up with him to shoot the breeze around his latest novel Maimstream, his e-only Comet Press release You, Me, and The Devil Makes Three, his new monster movie and censorship.

In part one of this interview we spoke about autobiographical stories, anyone who’s read your column knows you’ve had some lively and interesting experiences in your time; what autobiographical details and experiences have slipped into or inspired Maimstream?

Well, I’ve really toned it down these days. I take the wife to dinner and walk the dogs. Hell, I’ve got a family. But, to answer your question, I’ve inserted several big personal details deep into Scarla’s story, to keep things juicy… and we’re gonna alert the thought police if we keep this line of Q&A going. But seriously, with tales as fantastical as Scarla and Maimstream, there aren’t a whole lot of verbatim retellings of personal experiences to be found. There’s some metaphor and there are pieces of things, characters and settings, that I think every writer utilises, be it consciously or subconsciously, but nothing too concrete. Without giving away too much, I’d say the moments that best represent true life stories in Maimstream are the news station and the porno shop. Two jobs I wouldn’t do again, no matter what. But I’m very glad I did ’em when I did ’em, if you know what I mean.

Scarla was always going to be a controversial novel  because of its unrelenting subject matter, what kind of response has it received thus far and how easy was it to pitch a sequel to Comet Press?

Well, considering it was my first stab at writing a horror novel and I’d really braced myself for a barrage of venom and bile, Scarla was surprisingly well-received. I even broke my self-imposed rule of not reading reviews, because I just had to know how it was going over, and everything I saw was positive. Occasionally stunned and queasy, but generally positive. In fact, I remember coming perilously close to snagging your Novel of the Year award back in ’11. Bet you were sweating that one like JFK over the Bay of Pigs, eh? I really didn’t know what to expect upon the initial release that summer, but it remains one of the most fun experiences of my career thus far. I had the privilege of doing a Halloween book tour that year and met so many awesome readers that I’ve lost count. Tons of really great people every night, from all walks of life, open to new authors and edgier lit fare. Not everyone knows this, but Scarla started life as a screenplay some years earlier. Can you imagine it? They never would’ve produced that story and it has even less chance of going to screens today. But I was young and idealistic, full of piss and vinegar – and a fair amount of rage, obviously – and hellbent on getting the thing down. I even cast actors for a sales trailer, back when I still played that game, but it ended up fizzling in the unyielding glare of budget and logistics. I marched into an L.A. coffee shop one afternoon with two actors and we proceeded to run a full-on fight scene, dumping tables and sending patrons scattering. Knowing how TIH throws its release parties, I’m sure you’d have appreciated it. Then a producer friend asked to read it, so I obliged. He came back so enraged, we still laugh about it to this day. “You know what my girlfriend would’ve done if she’d picked this up? She’d have found you and punched you in your fucking face!” Shortly after that, an actor called me one night and bowed out with, “I promised myself years ago when I got into this business that I’d never be involved with material like this, and I can’t go back on it now.” So, I knew the manuscript was galvanising, to say the least. It didn’t take long to realise it wasn’t going to be a movie, but the script and the idea stuck around. When I finally got serious about writing a novel, it was the obvious choice for a redux. Enter Comet Press, who had the guts to take it on and give it a home. And a nice one, at that. Comet’s a class act. Cheryl actually believed in Scarla’s commercial appeal more than I did, at the time. When I hadn’t heard anything from publishers after a couple months, I went ahead and self-published, figuring I’d played my hand. Comet contacted me, saying they wanted the book and since it was already on Kindle, they’d move up the production schedule and go to print immediately. What new author would say no to that? I was delighted. And somewhat vindicated. When I started writing Maimstream, I kept it quiet and didn’t say anything until I had a finished draft. It’s about twice the page count of the original and I had no idea if Cheryl would even be interested, but I was committed, whether it went to press or not. To paraphrase Salinger, publishing’s not always the most important thing. Sometimes, just writing is the best reward, in and of itself. When I finally did mention that I had a follow-up, there was no hesitation. Cheryl wrote me a nice note and took it off my hands, with exclamation points.

Any future fiction events in the pipeline and can we expect more chaos akin to the L.A. coffee shop? Let’s fly Jasper Bark over and see what happens!

Oh, I’d love to tear up a quaint, little coffee or tea shop with Jasper. Over here, we’d be pepper sprayed, tased and hauled away to indefinite detention in seconds. He was maniacal in that bookstore clip you posted, it was great. I’ve always been a big fan of keeping ’em guessing. When the people aren’t sure if you’re putting them on or if you might really be insane and unhinged, drunk or high, it only heightens the comedy for me. Jasper’s schtick was gold. I would’ve liked to have seen some staff reactions, if you’d gotten them.

Comet Press seem particularly unflinching when it comes to explicit content, not only did they publish Scarla but they published Barbie Wilde’s The Venus Complex, have they ever told you you’ve gone too far with an idea or asked you to cut anything because it’s too explicit?

Never. I think that stance is for the weekend warriors. Every artist knows the censorship game’s for pussies, whether they admit it publicly or not. In fact, after parts of Maimstream made my amazingly sweet and patient wife cry, I had a crisis of conscience and did some editing, devising a new draft and softening some blows. But when it came time to submit, I just couldn’t do it and sent the uncut original. It was the purer product. Comet never flinched. They’re my kinda publishing house. And Jenn appreciated it, too. No one wants to hitch their cart to a wishy-washy wimp.

I know you like a challenge when it comes to censorship – do you ever test Comet to see where their limit is? I know back in the first season of your This Is Horror column you tried to insert a feature-length adult video into your column.

No, of course not. I like to test you, Mike, because it’s fun. It’s just us talking shit at the pub, after all, only it’s in print for all the world to see and I’m okay with that. It serves no purpose to test a publisher for the hell of it. Who wins a game like that? The writer’s probably writing shit for shock value alone and if the publisher exercises any kind of blanket rules and regulations that apply across the board, they surely don’t have a roster worth joining. A scenario like that’s nothing but a race to the bottom and it would never cross my mind.

Who’s the new cover artist and how closely does this new interpretation of Scarla represent your vision?

Her name’s Amy Wilkins and that’s also her portraying Scarla on the cover. It’s perfect, exactly what I wanted. Amy has since gone on to do more cover art for Comet Press writers, following her introduction to the pack.

Are there any plans for you to pay homage to Scarla with new ink? Do any of your tattoos tie in with your writing or do you keep the two art forms separate?

No tattoos of my own work yet, though I do have a couple that pay homage to the work of others I admire. I won’t name them here, since they do just fine on their own and don’t need my endorsement.

What’s next for Scarla? How about a cinematic or graphic novel spin-off?

I’m open to a screen adaptation, if anyone out there has the balls to put up the money. I’m not holding my breath, since her story’s nothing if not a ratings board atom bomb. However, I am directing for one of the premiere up-and-coming monster makers in the business today, so maybe we’ll have that talk. And I would love to see a graphic novel, but the artist for the job has yet to reveal themselves. Again, if you’re reading this…

Let’s talk about the directing gig for the up-and-coming monster movie maker, what’s the story there? Werewolf Rises, right?

It is indeed Werewolf Rises, for the relatively new company Ruthless Pictures, chaired by Jesse Baget. They acquired a film I made a few years ago that never made the proper rounds and re-released it this past summer, as Do Not Disturb. I think it was a positive experience for everyone involved, so we kept in touch and talked about doing something else sometime. Jesse’s the busiest guy I know, he never stops. Just look at the slate of films under the Ruthless banner and the short time it’s taken them to infiltrate the marketplace. Not everyone’s cut out for the extreme multi-tasking and vision required to build a production company from the ground up, but Jesse’s a natural. Working with Ruthless really illustrates how inept some people I dealt with in the past really were. I mean, totally different wheelhouses. Ruthless puts the money where their mouth is and if you talk about doing something, it gets done. I respect that, especially in the film business. You wouldn’t believe how rare it is. So, long story short, I got a call one afternoon and we talked werewolves. I’d never done a werewolf story before, so after a couple false starts, I really found the groove. I realised, in a way that often dawns on writers, it seems, that I’d kinda been telling werewolf stories all along  just without the wolves. And here we are. I’m getting back in the chair after a bit of a layoff, surrounded by beasts, buckets of blood and a great team that I can’t wait to get on set with. During pre-production, I became privy to just how strong the werewolf fanbase out there is. I don’t know that there’s another monster that elicits the same kind of passionate response from viewers and readers alike. It’s invigorating, and a little bit daunting, I’ll tell you. We’ve got a tight script, a strong crew, a superb cast, and we’re gonna do our best to deliver. Along with a solid story, teeth and blood. That’s what to expect. Teeth and blood.

In-between Scarla and Maimstream you penned a not inconsiderable amount of erotic fiction, did this influence Maimstream?

No, Maimstream was completed before all that started. I wrote hardcore erotica for about six months, cranked out a pile of steamy trash for horny housewives, who are actually a really, really dedicated readership. It influenced me only in that I knew the deposit would clear a couple days after meeting deadline, and I’ve never missed a deadline. But what erotica provided on a more tangible level, is it forced me to write fast and then faster, as the turnaround times for those things started at about a week-and-a-half and soon tightened to three days. If you want to make any real money at it, you’ve got to go hard and fast (no pun intended) and be assured, then move on to the next and repeat. You’ve got to do it around the clock to eat off it, so I did. I’m sure most ghostwriters who get into that racket do so at a much more leisurely pace or for kicks, around working jobs and raising families, but I’m a different kind of personality. I jump into everything with both feet and I’m all in, no half measures. It was a charged environment around my house for those six months, to say the least. It keeps you in a certain… mindset. Uh-oh, call the thought police. Anyway, it was fun.

You’re back on social media after a long break. What inspired the change and has it helped with the promotion of your work?

God, I hate it. I hate it so much, it’s such a mess, but what can you do? Releasing Maimstream without a social media platform, I did feel the difference in terms of that immediate connection to readers and a groundswell of support. Or condemnation, whichever, y’know? I mean, without it, there’s just silence. Don’t get me wrong, silence is golden. We live in the country, without a traffic light in sight, and the quiet you get in the dead of night is nothing short of holy. But when you’ve got a new book out, you’re kind of curious how it’s being received, especially in those first few days or weeks, and your publisher’s only going to keep you so informed. Facefuck I mean facebook is a pretty strong tool to get the word out and move some units. I mean, beat your two-hundred friends over the head with your new release announcements a couple times, you’re gonna sell some copies right there. If your friends are, y’know, your actual friends. I buy their stuff, I share their stuff, they do the same for me. It’s just a nice cyber codependency, really. I’m not one of these web junkies who friends strangers because we work in the same field or like the same crap. I’m also not one of these guys who trolls every burlesque chick on facebook to pad out my friend list with cleavage shots. It’s true, it happens. I know a couple guys in L.A. who do that. They’re fun cats to run with in the bars, but they just go all to hell online. There are a lot of them out there. My wife and I were talking about this the other night, about how you used to be able to meet new people and make friends pretty quickly, be it in a club or in the workplace, versus the considerably more guarded nature of people today. There’s definitely a layer of granite you have to bust through with a lot of new faces, before you can call someone a true friend, and Jenn put it right in perspective, as she tends to do. She said, “that was before people had little computers in their pockets and instant pen pals to shoot notes to.” And she was right. There are lots of people whose eyes glass over ten seconds into social situations and they just shut down, like robots. You’ll see them retreat to their little glowing screens to check on their virtual selves, then suddenly, after getting their fix like good junkies, they drop back in and try to re-engage. I walk away the moment those phones comes out, you had your chance. Manners, kids. Manners and social graces are everything. Don’t be a dick until the other person proves they’re an asshole. Then fuck ‘em.

What’s next for BC Furtney?

I leave for the wilds of Arkansas in six days, to begin principal photography on Werewolf Rises. I’m not sure I can mention our distributor until the ink dries, but look for it in ’14. We’ve got some great talent attached, including Melissa Carnell and the badass Bill Oberst, Jr. I think you Brits bestowed Bill with the ‘King of Indie Horror’ title not long ago, so I’m definitely looking forward to it. And if you like your werewolf films gooey and blood red, you might dig it.

MICHAEL WILSON

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