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Meet The Writer Interview: Bob Pastorella

Bob 01-16-2011

Bob Pastorella lives in Southeast Texas. He is the author of ‘To Watch Is Madness’, and has been featured in Warmed & Bound: A Velvet Anthology, In Search of A City: Los Angeles In 1000 Words, and the Booked. Anthology. Bob’s short fiction has appeared in numerous publications and he is currently writing a Horror/Crime novel. You can find out more about Bob at www.bobpastorella.com

What first attracted you to horror writing?

Watching the Saturday afternoon Chiller Features on TV got me started with horror. Of course, I spent most of my time watching with my eyes covered. They would show all the classics, while some of the other channels would present Hammer films at night. Rod Serling’s Night Gallery made a lasting impression on me as well. My father loved scary movies, and when one was scheduled to come on TV, he would let me know, then he’d turn out all the lights and make scary noises to make me and my little sister jump before the film even started. Horror comics had an impact as well, mainly the classic Warren comics, Creepy and Eerie. As far as writing is concerned, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles was a huge influence. My first short story was a heavily plagiarised retelling of The Martian Chronicles that was a lot shorter and certainly nowhere near as well written. But it definitely got the ball rolling. Then it was on to Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell. I cut my teeth on their books, reading everything of theirs as soon as it came out. Other early influences were T.E.D. Klein, Kathe Koja and David J. Schow. My writing leans toward a cinematic style, which makes sense due to my early inspirations coming from television, comics and movies rather than the written word.

What is your most notable work?

In the immortal words of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, my favorite Al Pacino character, all I can say is, “I’m just getting warmed up.” I’ve been fortunate to be involved with several stellar anthologies, the Booked. Anthology, In Search of a City: Los Angeles in 1,000 Words and Warmed and Bound: A Velvet Anthology. The story that seems to attract the most attention is ‘Practice’ featured in Warmed and Bound. It deals with a doomed love affair and suicide. While not the most typical of horror topics, the way I handle the love and suicide in the story is horrifying in a deadpan, straightforward manner. It is a true story, something that happened to me and a girl I used to go out with, and the real outcome was very unpleasant. We write what we know, and sometimes what we know makes for very powerful and emotional storytelling.

‘Alexandra’, featured in In Search of a City: Los Angeles in 1,000 Words is one of the most fun, yet challenging, stories I’ve written. It is exactly 1,000 words of madcap fantasy based on a photograph of the famous statues on the roof of the El Bordello Alexandra in Venice Beach.

‘Take My Breath Away’, featured in the Booked. Anthology, has made quite a few readers say that I’m a very disturbed person. It’s the first story I have written that was rejected by another publication for disturbing content. I take that as a compliment. It means I got under their skin. The guys at Booked liked it, and I’m so glad it found a home with them.

PreviewMy personal favorite story is ‘To Watch Is Madness’ which is available only at Amazon. It is a Western Zombie revenge tale that deals with ancient Indian magic. This story is the first Western I’ve written, and it was such an enlightening and fulfilling experience I can’t wait to write another Western. It deals with one of my favorite themes, which is that magic works exactly like it’s supposed to, perhaps better than expected, but sometimes the magic will burn you.

What are you working on now?

I have two writing projects I’m working on. One is an urban fantasy series about a suicidal immortal fighting the last vampire, the other is a horror/crime novel about a kidnapping gone terribly wrong.  I’m also working on turning ‘To Watch Is Madness’ into a graphic novel. I’m doing both the story and art for that one, and it’s a very long and tedious process. There’s a short story that’s going to be in a super-secret as-yet-unannounced anthology which is going to need some attention soon as well. I definitely have a lot to keep me busy this year.

Who do you admire in the horror world?

For starters, Peter Straub. Floating Dragon made such an impression on me when I first read it. I revisit it every couple of years, finding something new in the pages each time I read it. Straub made me realise the most important thing in the story is finding a character to fall in love with, someone that really resonates, someone you can relate to. Ramsey Campbell helped me learn that our perception of the world around us can be just as scary as the supernatural monsters we see in the corner of our eyes. Though his list of achievements isn’t very long, T.E.D. Klein’s work, especially his novel The Ceremonies, showed me that evil is very personal. David J. Schow puts so much personality into his characters it is hard not to love them. I could go on and on before mentioning Stephen King, so I’ll just stop here while this list is still short.

Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?

Both actually, usually within the same story. My story in the Booked. Anthology, ‘Take My Breath Away’, rides that fine line, swaying from one scene of nasty undead rot to a tense discussion regarding past betrayals without ever losing the hint that something is just not right with either of the main characters. ‘To Watch Is Madness’ is a flat out gore fest, as bloody and violent as any of the great zombie films, but it’s also a western, so there’s a lot of dramatic tension between the characters that springs from that time period. When it comes to gory, gross out scenes, I don’t shy away from them, but I also don’t try to sicken my readers either. Sometimes it’s more about what you don’t say in the story, or the details you merely imply, that make the most impact. I try not to make the gore the focus of the story. It’s much more interesting to see how my characters handle such sticky situations. So, in a way, I don’t dwell on the gory parts, but my characters often do, which can lead to dynamic choices they will make in scenes later in the story.

Why should people read your work?

People should read my stories because they are stories only I can tell. I come from the school of thought that there’s nothing new under the sun, that every plot has been done to death. The one thing that makes a story different, no matter how clichéd or overdone the plot, is the person writing the story. I have a unique view of life, forged from the events that shape me, and if my stories can scare the hell out of my readers, then I’ve done my job.

Recommend a book.

Oh, save the tough question for the end. I see how you roll. Actually, this is a very easy question. Stephen Graham Jones has a new one out from Broken River Books called The Least of My Scars, a novel about a serial killer. So why another serial killer novel, those things are a dime a dozen? The answer: Stephen Graham Jones is both prolific and consistent, which are two distinctions most writers can’t claim in one sentence. Seems like every other day he has something new out, and each release is better than the last. This book swallowed my mind, invaded my nightmares, and if you’ve ever read any of Dr. Jones’ work, then you’ll know that him tackling the ever familiar landscape of a deranged psychopath is going to be completely different from anything you’ve read. Get this book in your hands and let it consume you.

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