Interview: BC Furtney, December 2013. Part I

BC Furtney 2013

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. 

Maimstream is the sequel to Scarla, what can fans of Scarla expect and does this work as a standalone novel for those who haven’t read the original?

Yeah, it’s my first stab at a sequel, actually. I generally prefer standalone work over our current era’s penchant for ‘franchising’  a despicable term that lends itself more to fast faux food culture. For Scarla’s readership, there’ll be another grim internal and external journey, sauteed in sex and violence, but with a deeper exploration of the world that’s crumbling around our main character. The scope here is broader and the narrative is more inclusive. The story of Maimstream could belong to any number of characters, whereas Scarla was a uniquely solitary affair, delivered from one woman’s perspective, bent as that perspective was. It’s been said that Maimstream is four books-in-one and I’d agree with that assessment. It’s told through an ensemble. As for it standing independent of its predecessor, that’s a mixed answer. Through the new characters that are introduced, it can easily be accessible to audiences that weren’t exposed to Scarla. Readers will get to know a whole slew of people from ground zero, with the only common denominator being that, in the blink of an eye, their world goes completely to hell. With Scarla herself, it’s a bit murkier by design. There are snatches and shreds of her life and past that come out of nowhere, as her shattered memory slowly rebuilds. These episodes hit her just like they’d hit a new reader – without provocation or explanation, like random pieces of a twisted psyche jigsaw puzzle. When we find Scarla again, her slate’s been wiped clean like a newborn, and readers who don’t know anything about her will find themselves walking in her shoes  or daisy sandals  too. Those enigmatic moments won’t throw you if the first book’s on your shelf, but if you’re the type of reader that jumps into a sequel before the original, some nuances will probably sneak by. That’s to be expected. It’s like walking into a movie halfway through and expecting to get up to speed. Sorry, but you missed a chunk. As a writer, I can’t recap every small detail of a previous book while trying to move a story forward, and I wouldn’t want to. I understand some people want everything spelled-out for them, but I do think they’re in the minority, particularly in literary circles. Y’know, mystery is a fast-dying thing these days, where so many people want the answers to life’s tests without the trial-and-error of living and like to think they have the universe all figured out from behind the safe removal of their computer screens. If Maimstream accomplishes anything, I’d hope it shows that mystery, wonder, the dark recesses and the inexplicable are still alive and well, circling right outside the fire… or the glow of those iPads.

You said that Maimstream’s story could belong to any number of characters, are there any characters from Maimstream you plan to write further stories around?

No, I plan to let the Scarla universe rest for a good, long while. There are other stories to tell. You, Me, and the Devil Makes Three was released yesterday, via Comet Press’ eBook series. In terms of storytelling, it’s the polar opposite of Scarla’s adventures, but still winds us to a similar dark place. Maimstream is really intended to be the last word on extreme horror from me, at least on the page. Or, at least for the time being. Who knows what inspiration will strike down the road. I’ve never been big on running a good thing into the ground and, consequently, am not interested in beating a dead horse. Of course, I may just need a break from all the ultra-violence. The Scarla books are a real lot of horrotica. But, y’know, I thought she was done the first time around, so you can never say never. I think the two Tullys are probably headed for one helluva dark adventure and, of course, there’s still the matter of the woman at the bottom of the lake, so… hmm. See how easy it is to get pulled back in? Still, as of now, no plans. A good trait for a writer to cultivate is knowing when to say when and I’m not particularly interested in being a gore-lit guy, or whatever the hell they call it now. Scarla’s trip was gory, X-rated and over-the-top because honestly, it was the best way to dive in and tell those stories. Body parts and bodily fluids aren’t the only rabbits in my hat. There’s some downright heartwarming stuff in there… and I also have a bridge on the moon I’d like to sell ya.

Maimstream amplifies the sex, violence and sexual violence seen in Scarla, have you received any backlash as a result of this?

Backlash? Is it backlash-worthy? No, none. But I got no backlash from Scarla, either. I think people are generally smarter than to delve into books like these and come away with knee-jerk reactions. I mean, it all depends on the individual and their motives for having the book in their hands in the first place. For the most part, an audience knows what it wants and how far it’ll go to be satiated. As a writer, I try to let them know upfront what they’re getting into, so that they can back out before the water gets too deep or they can buckle up before the ride gets rough, either way. Regarding criticism in general, I feel like we’ve gotten so far away from any real or studied professional critiquing that, heading into 2014, the art of art criticism is virtually extinct. You can still find well-written good reviews if you know where to look, but the bad ones are really, truly poor. Like elementary school recess poor, where it’s just about being as snarky as possible and insulting an artist or their work on a personal level, as opposed to any honest, well-thought critique. I mean, how many bedroom warriors are taking to their keypads in misguided attempts to slag artists via their blog ‘reviews’? I’ve read so much crap out there from ‘reviewers’ writing to make their friends laugh or to impress their parents or to feel empowered, I just don’t know. I don’t know what it is that drives someone to start a webpage with the sole purpose of taking the piss out of everything they come in contact with. Where’s the joy in that? How do they process all that venom? I guess the answer’s in the question. So, while these losers who live at home or with five roommates lob their best insults from last week’s kegger at working artists who are in the trenches making it happen, they’re really only exposing themselves as miserable sycophants who’d love to be in the shoes of the people they’re ‘reviewing’, but can’t be. Because they don’t have it in ’em. And they never will. Any author, performer, or visual artist who’s been hit by one of those plankton instantly recognises what they’re dealing with. For creators, it’s about craft, but for those people, it’s about attention. And that’s the great divide. The inherent jealousy of fame culture, combined with instant blogging in the public arena has totally undermined what was once an important function for artists and audience alike: informed criticism. Poof, it’s gone. And in its place is a frustrated peanut gallery with an axe to grind because it can’t reach that pedestal itself. It’s too bad, because I think we’d all have good use for each other, on both sides of the fence. It’s kind of a microcosm of humanity’s vast inability to co-exist.

At what point is sexual violence necessary and at what point is it gratuitous in fiction? Where does Maimstream fall?

I have no idea. Who can answer that? It’s specific to the writer and specific to the piece. I think to apply any kind of blanket morality to an entire field of art is treading in very dangerous territory. Who am I to judge what’s necessary or gratuitous? Because I’ve written books, am I now the harbinger of taste for everyone in the game? Are you? Are the bloggers? The human race, to varying degrees and varying success, has fought long and hard to be free of persecution and it’s important to remember that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are worth every drop of blood spilt over the decades and centuries. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone how to pull their cart, so to speak, and don’t like it when someone tries to tell me. Likewise, I couldn’t say where Maimstream falls on a chart like that, because the criteria will – or should – vary wildly from person-to-person. I’d hope that people enjoy it or at least recognise it for what it is. If we’re all grown-ups, we all have the power of free will. Don’t like something? Don’t let it in. Don’t buy it, don’t borrow it, don’t focus on it. You don’t appreciate it, so just ignore it and go live your life. It’s really that simple, y’know? Don’t try to squash it, crush it, obliterate it, or make it go away for everyone, just because it’s not your thing. An infamous leader once came close to wiping out an entire race of people because he didn’t like them. Something to think about. Once we start down the path of applying do-not-cross lines, especially to genres as wild and free as horror, that’s a slippery slope. And one to be avoided, I think. We’ve all seen enough authoritarian thought-policing for a lifetime… unless you’re a member of said authoritarian thought police, then I’m sure it’s all fine and the battle’s only just begun. Nothing really shocks or offends me and I’ve given up trying to sway anyone’s opinions. Maybe I’ve seen and imagined too much. Love it or leave it.

Maimstream features a neo-Nazi motorcycle club, what inspired their creation?

Well, when the apocalypse finally does arrive, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that strength in numbers and rapid mobility will be key factors in our chances for survival. I hadn’t intended to feature an MC when I started writing Maimstream, they appeared a little later in the narrative, once Scarla got out on the road. I don’t outline novels the way I do screenplays, it’s always more of an organic process when I’m writing for the page only. I’ll make exceptions in the home stretch and plot some things out to make sure we stick the landing, but as we take off and reach cruising altitude, I tend to let the characters lead me. That’s how the bikers ended up in the story. They literally rolled up on me, just like they roll up on Scarla at the rest stop. Occasionally, a move like that will feel wrong and I’ll know it in seconds, so it’s easy to dial back and reset. But when it’s right, it really kicks the action up a notch and all of a sudden you’ve got horsepower you didn’t have before. As a writer, I love that feeling and it was like that with the gang. I’ve known quite a few bikers, but none near as nefarious as the Northern Nazis. Say that three times fast. When I was a little kid, some Hulk Hogan-looking guy gave me a hunting knife as a gift. I think it was a murder weapon. Or maybe I was reading too much into it. I had a vivid imagination.

Not outlining novels is a different approach to your screenwriting. Does this lead to more challenges and which do you prefer?

Actually, ghostwriting kind of changed my views on that. I’ve written a pile of screenplays, mostly unproduced, you know the deal. Usually, I was writing during and around 9-to-5 jobs and generally, I’d crank out 90 or so pages in about a month, which isn’t an awful work rate. But it’d never fly in the erotica realm. Over there, you’d be slow as molasses and buried in a pile of some hungrier writer’s sweaty bodies. By the time I was done with adult fare, I was doing some outlining just to avoid any contemplative lulls, and it made a difference. So then, things reversed themselves. I wrote the script for the new film in three days, no notes. I do think there’s something to be said for that initial burst of creativity, before the story becomes a committee thing, as movie scripts invariably do. Budget or time constraints on-set will alter your vision to some degree and performers will alter it a little more. The trick is to alter for the better. I also now acknowledge the merit in constructing your monster’s skeleton before adding muscle. Looking at it that way, it sounds downright necessary, doesn’t it? But it’s six of one, half dozen of the other. Going forward, I plan to let the project dictate how to proceed. The project’s never wrong.

MICHAEL WILSON

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