TIH 448: Conner Habib on Hawk Mountain, Against Everyone, and Occultists

TIH 448 Conner Habib on Hawk Mountain, Against Everyone, and Occultists

In this podcast Conner Habib talks about Hawk Mountain, Against Everyone with Conner Habib, occultists, and much more. 

About Conner Habib

Conner Habib is the host of Against Everyone with Conner Habib, the author of Hawk Mountain, a lecturer, and a sex workers’ rights advocate.

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Michael David Wilson 0:07

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creatives. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We count we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Connor Habib, the host of against everyone, and the author of the fantastic novel Hawk Mountain. This is a second of a two part conversation, you can go back to Episode 447 For the first, but as we've all ladies, you can listen in any order. And in this part we really delve in to Hawk Mountain. We talk about its Genesis as a short story. We talk about some of the violence in Hawk Mountain. We talk about the possibility for sequels, we talked about what genre we would put Hawk Mountain in and whether you know that kind of xiana classification is even important beyond marketing and book selling. We talk about much more. And as I said in the previous episode, Hawk Mountain really is one of the best debuts of the year. So I do urge you to pick it up and to check it out. Now before we get into the conversation, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 2:05

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Michael David Wilson 3:08

Now a quick reminder the best way you can support This Is Horror and keep the podcast going is to become a patron patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. I'll tell you a little bit more about it in the outro. But let's get into the meat of the episode. I know this is why you're all here. So with that said here it is it is part two of the conversation with Connor Habib on dessus hora. So, I mean, in terms of Hawk Mountain, I understand that it started life as a short story that you wrote in grad school. So I wondered if you could talk us a little bit through that.

Conner Habib 3:57

Yeah, so I mean, about 15 years ago, something like that. I wrote it. Yeah, as a short story, I was in my MFA program. I pursued an MFA at University of Massachusetts, I say pursued because I did the entire program. But there was like, some small thesis correction that I didn't do with the margins of my thesis, which now would not be anything because everything's done on computers. But back then it was like, a major deal. So I did everything but that. So anyway, so kids, I'll say this. You don't have to finish your MFA program to publish a novel. But no, I do. I took it into workshop and I was about 50 pages long, which is a horrible thing to do to other people. If you're in grad school, like really, you should be turned in like 20 pages. So I was already primed to like upset people. And it did indeed upset people. I had a fellow student tell me it was disgusting or know that he said, I think he said You disgust me.

Michael David Wilson 5:13

Even more personal. Exactly. You personally disgusted him.

Conner Habib 5:19

I think it was actually directed at me. Yeah, I remember and then my professor said, like, well, I don't read this sort of thing. So I've got no comment, whatever. You know, it's just ridiculous and lazy. But I am. But I yeah, I mean, I wrote it. I was thinking around that time a lot about you know, the art that as into as thinking about melodrama, you know, like old romance movies and movies by this German director is influenced by all that Rainer Werner Fassbinder thinking about Patricia Highsmith a lot he's writing, I find quite melodramatic. And I was just sort of thinking like, you know, what could be more melodramatic than a crime or an act of violence, like a big gesture that tells us something true, that sort of small gestures, gestures that aren't quite so self aware or exaggerated? Can tell us. And, you know, I, for some reason, I kept thinking about that moment, when you see someone out of place, maybe it had just happened to me, or maybe I was, you know, thinking about it, when it happened another time, my life, but I'm sure everybody's had this moment where you maybe there's someone you dislike, or you don't care about at all, like you're, you know, they're not a big deal to you, in wherever you live. And then you go to, you know, if I were to go, you know, to Texas, or something like that, for example, if I were to go, you know, whatever, like, if you're walking down the street in, you know, Norway somewhere and you see them, you're like, Oh, hey, it's you, you know, he's the start talking, you get kind of excited to see them. And what is that, like, when you see someone out of place, it sends a sort of shock to the relationship. And that sort of made me think, well, that's weird. Does that mean that our animosities are kind of performed, you know, in the way that if you watch that, those Bugs Bunny cartoons with I think it's like Ralph, and Ralph and Joe, I forget the Sheepdog and, and the wolf. The wolf basically looks like wily Coyote, but the sheep, and they, you know, chase each other around, and then they punch their time cards, and they're like, how are you doing? Let's have lunch, bla, bla, bla, and then they punch their time cards, again, they go out it like, is it all just performed, you know, our animosities and our hatred for people? Now, obviously, this is true in a time of social media, it's definitely important. But But does that mean that our friendships are performed as well? And what happens when, you know two people bump into each other? And it shows them that maybe there was some sort of performance going on in their relationship? And then what is that? What's the backstory with that? And so that's, you know, I wrote a story that starts from there and spirals into some, you know, truly violent and melodramatic stuff. And I'd written in a very melodramatic way, like the character of Todd, it was told from first person and it very sort of flowery voice, like, I couldn't possibly imagine the atrocities that were to await you know, like this kind of like, I would never, I mean, it's the, it's the furthest thing from the way the book is written. Now, the characters, you know, and it's not first person. Narrative, either. So it's very different now. But that was, that was what I was interested in, and it just fell flat. And so I thought about it for a long time, though. I just kept thinking about it and thinking about the characters and the conflict and and so I moved to LA and 2013, I think. And, you know, as you do when you live in LA, you know, you turn even what is the most boring story in the world, you're like, this can make a great screenplay. If you're like, Wow, this I'm gonna write a screenplay about the person who invented glue or something. The most boring story, but you just think about how you'll turn it into a movie. So I was like, Maybe I should, maybe I should make this movie. So I wrote the screenplay. It didn't work at all. I mean, I showed it to a few people.

But I didn't really try to seriously do anything with it because I knew it was new. It was missing stuff. But what it effectively did was give me an outline for the novel because you have every sort of scene written every every beat, you know you have every intern interior exterior date night. And then, you know, I wrote the novel using that as the outline. And so I wrote it in like six or seven months, just using that. And it just, I mean, I had to add quite a bit. I mean, obviously, I had to write the whole thing, but I had to add some scenes and some characters. But it was very quick. And that was, you know, I didn't really edit it after I mean, it was it was done. I added, like a few scenes after my editor slash publishers request to do edits, but didn't really revise anything afterward, because it was so mapped out, you know, via the screenplay, and just sort of percolating for that long.

Michael David Wilson 10:44

Yeah, now that you have the novel, out, I mean, I you actively pursuing perhaps now turning the novel into a different screenplay? Or are you looking to potentially shop the right surround? Is screenwriting, something you're interested in actively pursuing?

Conner Habib 11:07

Well, I won't make the same mistake I made before. If someone wants me to write movies I'm interested in I know what's meaningful about it to me. And in fact, like, a lot of people have told me like, wow, this reads a lot like a movie. And I mean, that's why and what they mean by that, usually, is that it's vivid without being completely filled in, like, there's a lot of, you can project your own sort of image into it, no pun intended. And you can also, and that also, it has a sort of structure that feels fast and, you know, and, and cumulative, it builds and builds and builds. I, so yeah, I mean, so I would love to bring those skills that I learned, you know, in writing this to writing for TV and movies, that'd be great.

Michael David Wilson 11:57

Well, that all sounds very promising. And I'll be keeping everything crossed that we do indeed see a version of Hawk Mountain on the screen, because that's definitely something I'd like to see. Awesome. Yeah, me too. Well, I mean, we've alluded to this previously, but there's, of course, an incredibly violent act in the first half of the book that is pivotal. And this changes everything. And I mean, this gut punch was so perfectly deliveredHow much is Todd a victim of circumstance and how much is he a victim of his own decisions and actions. And I was so glad actually, that go in into Hawk Mountain, I read very little about it. So it that act caught me completely off guard. It was absolutely shocking and masterfully delivered.

Conner Habib 12:51

Thank you, it's been actually a real challenge, like, talking about the book without revealing anything. Because, you know, like you said, it's like, it's not, it's not the climax of the book. Something happens early, and then things get worse from there. And everything that comes after kind of hinges on some of that. And I don't think that people finding out, you know what it is, because I'm sure, sooner or later people will talk publicly about what it is like, I don't think that that ruins the book in any way. I mean, a lot of people knew it. And, and in fact, when I used to describe the book to people, I would tell them what happened. And they still wanted to read it, because I said, that's just the first you know, third of the book or whatever. So I think it's fine. You know, if people do find out but it has been, but I'm very grateful that it's not actually been part of the main public discussion, and every major review that I've gotten has left that out, which is great. And I think people sense that it gives something extra when you don't know what's going to happen when you're going into it for sure.

Michael David Wilson 14:07

Yeah, I think that's exactly yeah, it wouldn't spoil it per se to No, but it gives it something extra. My God. It didn't deliver but I actually retrospectively in preparation for this conversation, listen to some of the things that you've said about it before so I did hear you previously mention this event. And hopefully alone the listeners are thinking oh my god, what is this event and it's like, there you go. We got you. You got to say

Conner Habib 14:43

we don't have to tell them about the haunted Jack in the Box that oh, sorry. No, just kidding.

Michael David Wilson 14:51

Yeah, we need to emphasize that was a joke when you mentioned Jack in the Box. They just walk into delete it from there.

Conner Habib 15:01

I mean, the restaurant not the toy. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 15:06

Yeah. But I'm wondering, and yeah, I'm so aware how having a conversation about this book and trying not to spoil it may be a bit of an uphill task, but we're gonna go for it anyway. But great. I wonder how much do you think Todd is a victim of circumstance? And how much do you think he's a victim of his own decisions and actions?

Conner Habib 15:40

I mean, I think it's definitely both I think, you know, there. So there are just two, really like three main characters of the book. There's, you know, Todd, and his son, Anthony. Anthony is about seven, about to be seven. And then there's Jack. And, you know, I mean, I'm sure you've covered some of this at the top, but it's like Jack, you know, relentlessly bullied Todd in high school, and then they reunite 15 years later, and people have reported again, and again, like that their sympathies have shifted from Jack to Todd, from Todd to Jack. And I think that that's because that question is something. And even with Anthony. In fact, with all the characters, like, I asked that question like, Are you a victim of circumstance? Are you a victim of your own decisions? And where do we draw the line? And what do we think, is a real decision made out of someone's freedom? And what do we think is like, compelled by, you know, things that have happened in the past? I want, I had a woman on my show, Dr. Glenn ad said, and Dr. Quinn acid, so she, she's a forensic psychologist who works with serial killers and violent offenders. And she said, this thing that I thought was really beautiful, because she has to be quite compassionate with them to like, just sit with them and work with them. She has a great book called the devil, you know, about this, and she said, you know, or she wrote, violent offenders are, I'm gonna get to quote a little wrong with something like violent offenders are people to whom an A disasters occurred, about the disasters, their own lives. There's after the disasters them, that's what she says, like, the disaster that has happened to them is that and I think when you view things that way, it kind of shifts for everybody, because I've applied this to every character in the book, the realm of culpability into something else. But I also think, you know, something that I said a lot on tour, because people asked me this kind of question a bit, or something like it? And I'm glad that they did. And I'm glad that you're asking me No, because it's one of the most important points of the book is like, you know, everybody has been horrible to everybody in their lives, and everybody has had horrible things done to them. And I think that this idea of the sort of tragic, completely pure and innocent victim, and the awful oppressor, you know, is completely, it actually damages our ability to try to heal when harm is done. And I'm not saying nobody's ever, you know, been sort of hurt by others and been completely innocent in the experience. Of course, of course, that's true of most of us as well. But I'm just saying this sort of back and forth. And I'm also not saying all harms are equal at all. But that sort of like, idea that we don't participate in the cruelty of the world. Or, you know, and often, you know, that we've only had bad stuff happened to us. I don't think that that's right. I think, you know, part of this book, is really about making sure that everybody's held accountable, and that, you know, no one is left on forgiven. And so I think it's complicated. I don't think I could answer one way or the other with any of the characters in this book.

Michael David Wilson 19:28

You know, I particularly like as well and along these lines is I mean, I would say, every character goes in some way from kind of being good to bad and then from bad to good and your sympathies and your relationship as you're reading the book and your perception of each character changes. I mean, perhaps most of all, for me was Livia. Yeah, yeah, in terms of what I felt towards her, it was very different when she was introduced at the start compared to my feelings at the climax of the book. And I think it just this is illustrating almost like the, the ambiguity of good versus evil to put it in such binary and flawed terms.

Conner Habib 20:25

Yeah, it's, it's interesting. So, Livia, is Todd's ex wife. And then there's another sort of prominent woman in the book. Elaine is Anthony's Anthony's teacher, and you know, Olivia is like Livia. I was really, like in the story, Olivia wasn't there, right? So like, 15 years ago, Livia was just sort of a, you know, off stage presence. But she became more and more important to me, I read Patricia Highsmith the cry of the owl before I wrote the novel version of Hawk Mountain and I was just thinking, you know, there's always this side character in Patricia Highsmith books that like really just fucks everything up in one way or another, like, super complicates the situation. And usually prefer to have some, it's just makes the person just completely rotten. And because this Patricia Highsmith, and for a lot of people have chronicled this, like she really just hated women, women, like Patricia Highsmith would make it a woman who was doing this? Or sometimes she would make it a police officer. I didn't want the police anywhere in this book at all. I don't think they're, I think they're overused, for lots of reasons. And in books and, and movies, especially horror novels, and horror movies. And I don't think that they add enough to justify their inclusion. So I, usually, so I just decided not to have the police in this at all as the sort of Third, you know, thing. But my editor did ask, he's like, is she just a crazy asshole? Or is she sad? You know? And, for me, that's, you know, I have my answer to that. But I don't want to, I don't want to tell you the answer. Because I want everybody to have their own sort of freedom to interpret it. Elaine, on the other hand, is, she's kind of the only stabilized you sort of normal person in the book in a way. I mean, even I suppose Todd's parents are in it as well. And they're, they're not great. But they're not, you know, they're not as bad as any of the other characters. But Elaine's kind of just the sort of normal one who's caught up in in something. And I think it was necessary for me to have that one stable person who was kind of taking a stand against even entering into the kind of moral and ethical in horror universe that might have sought to engulf her just to show that something else might be available. Because like, if you don't have anybody that's kind of normal, or making smart decisions. And a lot of times, like that character also will be a woman. Because that's how it can play out in life lifetimes do. That you you don't have. You don't have any sort of reflective, you know, or control, you know, for the horror experiment that you're running.

Michael David Wilson 24:02

Yeah. And I mean, in terms of now, do you think a lot about Todd and about Anthony and about Livia, and about Elaine, and do you think that there is scope, or indeed a necessity for you in terms of creatively putting out other stories with these characters in?

Conner Habib 24:30

Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, I've definitely thought about, you know, Todd, and Jack and Anthony. Yeah, they all sort of live in me in a certain way. As these weird thought forms that I created and sort of set loose into the world. I do think about ways to tell stories with them all. And, you know, part of me doesn't like when writers pick up characters and make a kind of like, I don't know that a Habib verse needs to exist, you know, like, with the books like I don't, I'm not sure like I understand the temptation, but it's kind of like, well, yeah, but then that book doesn't get to have its own world like, doesn't every novel actually deserve its own world rather than being sucked into something that is, you know, obviously pointing towards an author? So I'm not sure. But then again, you know, there's always my thought like, Okay, well, if this became a TV series or something like that, how would I? How would I do a season two? And yeah, I mean, I have that all mapped out in my head, like how that would happen, and what it would be like, and it is very exciting to me to sort of think about continuing it on. But it also feels a little like, Yeah, but would I need to use these characters to do that story? Could I actually do it in a different way? So I don't know. I mean, yeah, they live in me in a certain way. But I don't know that there's that the that I have some sort of excited idea of continuing this universe are stretching it out. But it could, we'll see. We'll see what happens.

Michael David Wilson 26:37

All right, we gotta watch this space, then for season two.

Conner Habib 26:44

Turtle Valley? Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 26:50

Well, I mean, we were talking before about genre labels, we were talking about categorizing things as horror. And of course, in Hawk Mountain, there's so many different facets to it. And there's so many genres and sub genres from horror to potentially coming of age to thriller, to romance. And so, I mean, I'm wondering, in terms of genre, I mean, firstly, is there a genre that you would put this firmly in? And do you think in the grand scheme of things? Does genre classification really matter? Beyond Marketing, or a broad indicator into the potential themes of a book?

Conner Habib 27:44

Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, it's, it's alternately marketed as literature, literary horror, horror, thriller, crime, literary crime, by because I have two different publishers, right. So it's Norton in the US, and it's Penguin, double day in Ireland, the UK and Australia. And those are different markets. And they're, they have different covers, because they're trying to appeal to different people. You know, in the UK, I think there's an idea, I don't know if it's true or not, but that, like thriller readers, and crime readers are, like, they want a little more sort of literary bent to the thriller and crime, so than they do in the US. I don't know if that's true or not. And, again, I don't know if that distinction is worthwhile, but it's, it's made me encounter a lot of different audiences for the book as I go through. And in fact, here in Ireland, and then also in the UK, it's, it's been mostly reviewed as a crime novel. Whereas in the US, it's not at all. In the US, it's mostly reviewed as literature or horror. So it's a little confusing, you know, and in some ways, I, I wonder if that's, you know, eventually going to negatively or maybe truly, positively affect, you know, the sales of the book and all that I actually don't know. For me, the only reason why I wouldn't want the novel to be categorized as horror, the only reason is because most bookstores don't have a horror section anymore. You know, like, it's, it's a sad truth that like horror, although it is, again, really big now. People now shelve it in science fiction and fantasy or literature. And so, you know, then sometimes there's like one shelf of horror and like the big bookstore or the little bookstore, whatever. And so, being set on that shelf, next to, it would probably be next Stephen King, right? I mean, I can't I'm trying to think of horror authors who have ah. Last name

Michael David Wilson 30:07

to be James habra in okay. Yeah. Right. Well, that's a good one. Yeah. Not yet all over your next Stephen. will fuck you games?

Conner Habib 30:21

They don't they don't sell James Herbert really in the US either. I mean that's the thing like Well,

Michael David Wilson 30:24

okay then Joe Hill is so Joe Hill Thank you

Conner Habib 30:31

famous horror writer of the of our moment Yeah, sorry. But it wouldn't it's not like that, you know, I mean actually Joe Hill probably is one of the closer writers to what this might be like, although, you know, in the sense that there's a lot of sort of compassion and heart and emotive aspects to Joe Hill's writing that I think he puts his foot forward with, you know, even I just saw the black foam, which is fucking great. And I just thought, well, this is a lot like Stephen King. But there's something truly like emotive ly heartbreakingly different about this, that makes it feel all its own thing. Even if I recognize kids in danger with psychic powers fighting evil, you know, there's there's something different there. But I, you know, in a small town, but I think like that would be the only reason why I wouldn't want to be characterized as horror, because I think people go and look and they're like, Okay, Joe Hill, Stephen King. You know, HP Lovecraft, like, whoever else they, they think of when they go to that shelf is like the big iconic people, and then they pick up Hawk Mountain. And it's not it because of the way books bookstores work, it's not fitting in onto that shelf properly for that reader, because those books are great books. But it doesn't have as much in common with them as it might if you put it next to Cormac McCarthy, or Patricia Highsmith, or even like James could see or something like that, like these people that write horrific things, but for some reason, you know, get marketed differently. So, yeah, like, for me, it is kind of a horror novel, but it probably fits better on just the literary fiction shelf for those reasons for people's expectations. That said, I think, I think people obviously, I mean, you were talking about it, and you guys love horror. So I think it, it is a horror novel for sure. And it fits there. And it appeals to people who read horror novels, as long as they're willing to lead in something that's a little bit different. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 32:45

It's an interesting point you make, you know, in terms of just making sure the, again, it is kind of a marketing and a sales point of view. But yeah, meeting people's expectations. But I mean, for me, if I was curating the horror section, then I think, rather than having things like Cormac McAfee, and let's say, Susan Hill, who did the woman in black in the general literary section, I'd be trying to expand the definition of horror. So then you would have Hawk Mountain them, but you'd also, as I say, you'd have the road by McAfee, you'd have the terror by Dan Simmons, you may even have Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, which will probably have units some people go in fucking nuts. So they did put that in the horror section. But I mean, I think a lot of the purpose of This Is Horror is to in fact, expand that definition and to say, well, this is our and this is how to so yeah, let let people know that it's not just a vampires and zombies and monsters, or whatever people might stereotypically believe horror to be. And I mean, I think we're coming back to movies again, but I do think there are a lot of horror movie makers like Jordan Peele and stuff he's doing with us, and we've get out and then Ari Astor, particularly we've made summer I think they're expanding the definition of what horror is. And that's a good thing. And obviously, there are still people who don't like horror who will say, Oh, well, it's not horror, but I think sometimes they have decided that their identity is a person that does not like horror. So anytime they like something good they decide, you know, it's a word via art form. That's why we will have To this bullshit, we've elevated horror in transcending the genre, whereas, as opposed to transcending, I would say a far better word would be it's expanding the genre. It's expanding the definition.

Conner Habib 35:17

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that's, I think it's pretty important to, to look at, you know, why a genre needs to be transcended, and who put it in a place that they thought was so low that it had to be written above. You know, it's like, you're right. I mean, I think it's the same again, it's the same thing. Like, again, there's a pornography thing here. Yeah. Like there's a sex scene that is fully graphic and Antichrist by Lars von Trier. Yeah, right. Yeah. I would not call that a Bourne movie. But it definitely I'm sure some people saw that and got aroused. You know, that part of it. I think you have all sorts of things that, like you said, they, they should be shelved there. Or, I don't know. I mean, I have some difficulty, like, obviously, also, the label gives us something. So it's not like we want to just eliminate the label either. We want to be able to engage in horror and find things that have horrific themes. But I can't imagine that it does more good than harm at this point. Unfortunately. And I don't know that that means erasing the word horror, it just means finding a different way to engage with how we find, sell and recommend works of literature to each other. One of the novels that I keep telling people about, you know, on this on the tour was disgraced by Jim cozzia. I mean, his a horror novel, it is truly horrific. And he won the Nobel Prize in literature, you know, and it's, it's beautiful novel, also, very slim. This is another book where you shouldn't read anything about it, you should just go and read it, but it's not going to have vampires or werewolves or zombies or whatever. And that's, you know, another question like, do we expect something supernatural to happen in horror? Is that is that the issue? I mean, I certainly have always preferred supernatural horror to slasher horror. But then, some of my favorite horror novels nothing you know, explicitly supernatural happens. You know, I'm thinking of ill will by Dan. Shawn is one of my favorite horror novels. And that just skirts the supernatural as do all his stories. I mean, the BS by Dan shown is one of the best horror stories ever written. It is fucking horrifying. But it is not explicitly supernatural. You know? And then what do you do with writers who write something that is a horror novel, and then they write sort of horror adjacent like Sarah Gran, who's come closer as one of the best horror novels ever written? I think there's a lot of consensus on that. But you know, she's written these other books that are have a cult and magical and sort of dark elements in them. But they get shelved and mystery, you know, and it's just all it's very confusing. And people have been contending with this problem for so long. As you know, I'm sure this is this has come up while on the show, like again and again. And it comes up with every horror discussion, and like horror conventions, and all that kind of stuff, where it's like, we need to find a better solution to this as a problem. Or if not a solution than a better embrace to these categories, because, and more harmony between them. And I don't exactly know how to do that. I mean, I'm not this, this is a question for curators. I suppose I am a curator in the sense that I have a podcast, you know, and I curate my guests and the episodes and stuff like that. But I mean, the people are curating the literary world could do a lot better, you know, with this question.

Michael David Wilson 39:20

And you given me so much to think about here. And I mean, in terms of Sarah grant, if I was curating this fictitious bookshop that I've decided I have now I mean, come closer, would definitely be in the horror section, but I'm actually and I'm sure a lot of booksellers will freak out about this, but rather than an offer I would take each book on an individual basis but I can see people thinking like oh, that's absolute chaos. These foot this Stephen King, one in the horror section and others in crime is but another in general literate Share that I'll probably be doing my key. But I, you know, I guess for me, I want to be as honest with the label as I can. But I suppose a lot of booksellers it's like, right, we want this one offer in this section. But I mean, Joe R Lansdale, he'll often talk about if you ask him what genre does he write is like, well, I write the Joe Lansdale genre. And it's absolutely true because he's got thriller, he's got crime, he's got horror. He's got literature he is Joe Lansdale, he'll do what the fuck he wants, in fact, yeah, probably an absolute headache for bookstores. And I'm probably a reason why we see different offers not different offers the same offer having different names having pseudonyms, because as a seller, they want to distinguish well, okay, what mode is this? What mode is that? But yeah, is when I'm writing a story, and I'm sure it's the same for you, I don't initially think oh, well, this is that particular genre, right, you know, write the story that needs to be told. And then in terms of figuring out classification, if the publisher or the marketer can sort that out, or I can think about it when I have to sell the bloody thing, but in terms of the composition, it is not a time to be putting it in a neat little genre box.

Conner Habib 41:40

Yeah. And it's almost impossible to not do that. You know, I mean, I'm thinking about the book I'm working very slowly on now. And like, it just keeps sort of cycling into like, oh, do I include this element? Do I not include this element? Like, I think the good thing about Hawk Mountain being able to be shelved so many places is that it gives me, it just opens up the possibility of direction and a lot of ways for me, I can go and write whatever I want. Next, pretty much. But, you know, the book I'm writing now is much, much darker than Hawk Mountain, if you can believe. And I

Bob Pastorella 42:25

got my credit card out already.

Conner Habib 42:28

But then see, like, then check this, like, I have a third book in mind, like down the road, which is like, a completely, like, it's a book about love, like, not, not a romance novel, but like, actually really loving, like, happy book. And so I'm like, Well, fuck, like, what do I do when I didn't want to do? You know, like, you know, I mean, I, and, and it almost feels like a responsibility to me to write a book like that after writing these two things. So, you know, it's, it's very, it's very confusing, and you can't help but think of it as an author. And it's really interfering with the process, you know, and everything, it's, it's not good, ultimately, that in some ways, it is good when you're thinking about your audience, of course, because to consider your audience and being able to use language and structure and all that and characters in a way that communicates with them is an act of compassion. It's an act that connects you to the audience in a useful way and in a loving way. But moving, you know, like moving all your shit around, because you're afraid of how something's going to be marketed, of course, is, it's not really that great, you know, it's just not good. But again, like, if you ask yourself, what's meaningful about it, instead of, you know, how will this sell, that probably works better? I wanted to say to something about, you know, the pseudonym thing, it is pretty intense. I mean, obviously, like, every porn performer picks a pseudonym, right? For reasons of stigma, and regulation. Now, I use that same name. My birth name is not that my birth name is widely available, but I just don't really talk about it's like, you know, it's online. It's everywhere, but, but I use that because it's easier for me to now be a public figure and just use, you know, Connor Abebe everywhere. And most of my friends call me Connor at this point now because just the name has been with me for so long. But I'm thinking of like John Manville, who was one of the most respected writers of our time as Irish writer just won the Booker Prize, you know, there's lots of talk about him won the Nobel Prize. And he wrote these like mystery novels is Benjamin black. And it's like, Why did even he feel he had to do that? You know, it's not, it's not just like people that are starting out their careers or whatever. Like, this is someone who is well, you know, into his career still writing And under the pseudonym. And some people like Anne Rice and Joyce Carol Oates, they kind of an end Stephen King kind of reabsorbed their pseudonyms in a way. But these are like the most successful of the successful that can pull that off. Yeah, like your best selling writers of all time, you know, it's like, it's not easy. It's not easy to navigate this territory, and you do have to create, you have to create a lie almost to even be able to do it, because the structure itself and the divisions themselves are lies. So you have to enter into that structure. And that's unfortunate.

Michael David Wilson 45:36

Yeah, yeah. Something you said when you were talking about last one, Korea, and you're talking about the sex scenes in Antichrist, and of course, that brought to mind a lot of the sex scenes and nymphomaniac. And it really got me thinking about pornography and about erotic films and just thinking, Where is the line? Where is the distinction? Because we can have pornography where there's high quality cinematography, there's a good blah, it's not just the sense, there's a lot of build up and anticipation. So where's the distinction? When does something you know, go from pornography to erotic film and vice versa?

Conner Habib 46:28

Yeah, and I think it's, it's again, like you used to be able to go to corner movies and movie theaters. You know, there, the New York Times would review porn movies. And I think that's obviously not happening anymore. But if anybody goes see, to watch a gay porn movie by Wakefield pool, for example, or some of earlier, Joe gage films, like you'll see that these are, like, substantial films. And it's not that they're substantial in comparison to foreign, they're just great movies. I think, you know, it doesn't solve the problem, really, to say, it's the difference between good art and, and bad art. Because then that has its own set of problems, but at least that set of problems is more genuine, then this is porn, and this is not porn, because we have a big budget, you know, that's actually just classist. We can, it's probably and, you know, and related to who was able to form a union, you know, so people are getting paid well, and so there was all this kind of stuff versus like, who is not able to form a union, so they get sort of ghettoized into, you know, like, well, this is just porn, it's just porn. I think that, like, obviously, people don't have the same expectations for something they're finding on PornHub as they are when they go see nymphomaniac. But that, by no means means that someone's favorite scene on PornHub is less meaningful to them. In fact, it's usually more meaningful to them, they're willing to watch it way more times, and they're willing to watch any feature film, they probably have more of an intimate sort of connection and imagination around the performer than, you know, like, what Charlotte Gainsbourg or you know, now she aloof or whatever, you know, like, it's it, that the connectivity is usually a lot deeper, and, you know, forms the imagination and assists the imagination in a completely different way. So I don't I don't think the distinction between good and bad and, you know, is is also necessarily real, but there's, it's a better one than the genre. And the genre distinction, for sure.

Michael David Wilson 48:54

All right. Well, we got a question from VR Weather via Patreon. And she wants to know, which occultist is most relevant to modern horror readers and writers. Wow, what a great question. I know. Right. And that came in.

Conner Habib 49:20

I mean, you know, unfortunately, the one that's most relevant probably is Aleister Crowley. And the reason why is because L Ron Hubbard ripped off everything from Aleister Crowley and John Parsons, John Whiteside person so like, and Scientology is deeply permeated all forms of entertainment in the world in the US. So that's probably the most relevant just in terms of like, what are the actual numbers there? What's actually affected people that permeation is huge. It's huge Aleister Crowley's everywhere because of science. apology, which is kind of hilarious. I mean, now it's all Mr. Crowley in a distorted form. But that's definitely there. I mean, as far as like, Oh God, what a, what a sort of interesting way to look at things. I think probably there's something to be said about the positive thinking movement, which is kind of a culty, like the New Age, self healthy self development, like there's lots of you can overcome the evil if you just believe in yourself, that ends up in horror, a lot of times as well, which I think is probably, you know, a trope, even, like, we're talking about the, you know, Blackphone before, there's a lot of that in there, and that you can overcome the evil by, you know, sort of positive thinking, play acting. Like I'm thinking of that great horror movie greenroom. Where like, they basically are like, just pretend you're in a game, you know, like, that's how they survive the situation, or while the ones that do survive the situation survive it. But so, in that, you know, traces back to Neville Goddard and some of the other people that the historian Mitch Horowitz writes a lot about, I kinda, I'm gonna need to think about that question a lot. And there's a lot of different ways to answer right, like, I just answered in two different ways. But it's probably meant even in, in other ways, by the person who's asking, is it you know, which one should we pay attention to when we write when we read all that kind of stuff? And I don't know, I'm really going to sit with that. But those are my first two answers.

Michael David Wilson 51:49

Yeah. Yeah. And you went in green room and Jeremy Sony, I mean, what a great filmmaker, green room and Blue Ruin in particular being the highlights for me.

Conner Habib 52:05

Do you have any answers about the occultist thing? I mean, surely, you've seen some occultism show up in, in books and movies that you've paid attention to. But the question of relevance is sort of a weird one.

Michael David Wilson 52:23

I know. It's like the throwing, throwing relevance in cases so much lightwire irrelevant in in what way are we talking about like lessons that can be learnt or philosophies that we should look into? It's such a wide and encompassing question.

Bob Pastorella 52:46

The thing with the occult is that for me, that, you know, I'm aware of Aleister Crowley, I've, you know, and I've read parts of, you know, a cult in America. Mitch is a book that he wrote, which is really good. And it's about the, you know, the history of colorism in the United States. And to me, the thing that's the scariest about the occult, is that it's the power of belief. In other words, you don't nothing supernatural actually has to happen in an occult novel. It's anything could be supernatural. At that point. It but it's it to me, the scariest thing is that there's people that believe that something is going to occur are has occurred. And it's those individuals that have developed their own ritual and magic that in a, you know, it's so to me, it's, it's it becomes very personal. And it's something that they have to you know, go go through and, and do that like I don't know, we we always come back to film but then that movie, The, you know, a dark song about in which I've, I've read and I've seen a movie a couple of times, but me I've read that a cultist say that's probably about as realistic as you're gonna get. When you're dealing with magic. There is a massive amount of preparation. And it's not just you know, physical things, but it's spiritual things. So, to me, it's, it's not like the witch occultist. It's more like how how the occult has slowly woven its way into, you know, our way our lives in ways that we don't even comprehend or imagined. Until you actually start to think about it's like, Wait, that's, you know, and to me That's, that's, that's horn debt. That's really scary. And because you don't anything could have been, you know, this building was was, was built because a cultist wanted it built there. You know, and it's like, well, why? Why did they want it? What the fuck is going on? You know? And it's just, it's weird.

Conner Habib 55:24

Yeah, I love that. I mean, and where's the? Where did they get the purchase, like where they get the cultural foothold to be able to even have that kind of influence? I think, you know, I think you make a great point. It's like, it's something more about also the way the occult is portrayed. I mean, I'm thinking of, like, there's a whole list of movies that I think portray the occult really well, a dark song is definitely one of them. There's the 1973 film, Baba Yaga, which is like a cross between the Italian New Wave cinema and horror. And it's, that's great. I mean, it's really weird. It's very poppy, but it shows witchcraft really well. Twin Peaks, I think, really depicts the occult, like, perfectly actually. And also depicts evil, like, very well, hereditary. I mean, Oculus, Rosemary's Baby, that, that, um, Larry Fessenden movie, when to go. And I think that those are all great depictions of the occult really been examined with some seriousness, magic, and ritual and all that kind of stuff. And so I think it's like, what a cult is should we pay attention to, you know, pay attention to the the occultism in the films and in the horror that you're reading, and sometimes that people don't even have to be a cultist to nail it. You just sense the realness of it coming out of the work of art that you're engaging with?

Michael David Wilson 57:03

Yeah, I think you nailed it there. And a lot of what we've we've been saying kind of throughout this section and about kind of thinking, and we've been talking about positive thinking, but you also wrote in your arrest, say, when you're sick, you wait for the answer, but none will come. You are about like when when we have knowledge of like an illness or of a malady, then like that, that awareness and that thinking can kind of almost amplify it amplifier, and it can become even worse. So it's just really, you know, making me think how our thoughts live. So I'm very being almost it can be a benefit or a curse, depending upon the situation and how we use these thoughts.

Conner Habib 58:04

Right? Yeah, for sure.

Michael David Wilson 58:07

But I think, as we've now exceeded exceeded an hour, we should probably wrap this up. But I've got like, Fuck loads more we could talk about. So I mean, we, if you want to, we can do this another time. This has been great chatting with you. And I know that you're so knowledgeable on so many subjects as is, I suppose no surprise, given your podcast, which we haven't even mentioned, which is another thing that we could probably talk about for, you know, a good hour or so.

Conner Habib 58:45

Yeah, well, thank you. I mean, I think like maybe as far as the podcast goes, like, I can just say some of the horror writers who have been on the show if people are interested, looking at against everyone with Connor be because there's a lot of different topics. I mean, I talked about the occult, and I talked about pornography, and I talked about horror, and I talked about politics with amazing guests, you know, and so you know, some of the people that have been on or you know, Ramsey Campbell has been on and and Brian Evanson has been on and Kelly link, and also, Phil Hay, who co wrote that great horror movie the invitation. Oh, that's a fucking great one, isn't it and Paul Tremblay has been on and I mean, it's just a lot in summary, a griffin and it was just a lot of people who engage with horror and dark fiction. Liz Nugent wrote a bunch of crime novels that are just fucking great. And Sarah grands been on twice. So it's just, like, if you like that stuff, you know, they're almost too hot. 100 episodes so you can comb through and find the things that you like, and maybe it'll extend into, you know, some other stuff because I am not someone who wants to be stuck in genre, you know, in in the way that's harmful. Like I said, there's probably a good way that genre something that these categories give us. But, you know, even, like, there's a poet on my show, Zachary Schomburg, who wrote a book of poems called scary, no scary. Some of the poems in that book are fucking horrifying, you know, it's like, if you let yourself be affected by them, we don't usually we wouldn't shell poetry and horror, you know, but has a category it fits certain poets. And so I think, you know, even some Ted Hughes poems are really horrifying. What there's one called, gosh, what is it? It's like, the dogs are eating your mother or something like by Pat Hughes, and it's, you know, yeah, the dogs are eating your mother. And it's a great poem, and it's a horror poem. And so I think you can use my podcast is maybe a way to engage in this kind of connectivity that we've been talking about this whole episode, because I think it's there. The most horrific episode is actually with this guy, Dan Gretton who wrote a book called IUE them, which is a nonfiction book, that's like 1500 pages long about desk killers of people who murder other people by signing sheets of paper by enacting policies. And that episode is really intense. And I think it so you know, I mean, you don't want to engage with that kind of horror, as you know, escapism or something like that, because you can't escape into it. I'm not saying that we engage in horror and escape, but I'm just trying to make a distinction here for what some people might go to horror for. But just sort of webbing all these things together and adding them all together, stringing, you know, strings between them, I think, is a great and can be a profound exercise. And so something I tried to do by having all these different kinds of people on the show,

Michael David Wilson 1:02:13

yeah, and I would encourage people to listen to against everyone, not just for the horror, and not just for, you know, expanding beyond that both for philosophical discussions and spiritual discussions. I mean, there's such a wide array and really, just really interesting conversations. And I know that I mean, we've This Is Horror, were perhaps distinct from other horror fiction podcasts. Because here we don't just talk about the horror, we don't just talk about the books, we will talk about life lessons, we will talk about philosophies. So I'm willing to bet that if people are fans of This Is Horror. And I'm guessing if you're listening to this, you are because if not, what are you doing with your time you listen to a conversation for over two hours. But if you're a fan of this as our own, which you aren't, and you're also gonna like against everyone with Connor Habib, so, yeah, listen to one of those episodes, maybe start with Ron Ramsey Campbell as a little gateway drug and then expand.

Conner Habib 1:03:26

Yeah, that's great. Yeah, and I love that you guys do long form interviews. I mean, I know that this will be cut down quite a bit. But the depth of the conversation is, it's really important, because so much is just sort of skimming the surface. And I don't think people want that anymore. I don't think people want teasers of teaser trailers anymore. I don't think people want content. They want actual depth and substance. And I think that's something you guys are offering, which is awesome.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:00

No, well, thank you very much. That's certainly what we aspire and aim to do. Well, where can our listeners connect with you?

Conner Habib 1:04:13

Yeah, I mean, just the best way to actually get connection for sure is to be a part of my Patreon. So patreon.com forward slash Connor Habib and CO nn E R, H, A, B, IB. Yes, it's aimed at the podcast, but it's also just for all my work, it supports everything I do. And you know, I offer these like salons once a month, where I like, will pick a topic and just talk about it live streaming and do q&a and discussion and stuff. And you know, it's also just, I respond to patron patron emails, like a lot more quickly. I do respond to every email, but sometimes it takes me months. If it's not a patreon patron, so I love that. And I also love like, I love engaging with people and having that kind of associative relationship, which is like, hey, we like what you're doing. So here's, you know, some money, we're not paying you for your labor, we're paying you because we support who you are in the world. It means a lot to me. And I think it's the right way to sort of run things. I also, you know, I mean, I have Twitter, but I don't, I don't engage on my Twitter or my Instagram, you know, at Connor Abebe or on Twitter and against everyone with Connor bebon, Instagram. Those are just sort of I blast things out into the world and sometimes engage with people there. But it's rare. But you can say hi, you know? So, yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:48

All right. Do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to leave our listeners with?

Conner Habib 1:05:55

Well, honestly, you know, the thing I want to leave with was like, both you guys like, you know, I really value what you're doing and what you're offering. And because, like I said about the series discussion stuff before, but like you talking about horror in its own, right, you're talking about literature in its own right. And we're not just reducing things to some other realm, whether it's politics, or whether it's, you know, like the politics of the content of the writing or, or, you know, basically what the metaphors are inherent in it or whatever, but actually, like taking her seriously, it's really important. And I think that horror is more important now than ever. So you guys are doing something awesome. So that's all I wanted to say at the end.

Michael David Wilson 1:06:42

Thank you so much for listening to the conversation with Connor Habib. Such a great conversation. And, as I keep saying, if you haven't already, do pick up a copy of his debut novel Hawk Mountain. It's one of the best, it's horror, it's coming of age is thought provoking literary thriller, and it is fucking incredible. Now in the next episode, we will be talking to Kevin Lucia. He is a wonderful writer, and he is also the editor over at cemetery dance for their paperback and ebook lineup. So we had a great conversation with him. But if you want to listen to that ahead of the crowd, if you want to listen to every episode ahead of the crowd, to become our patron@patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get to listen to every episode ahead of the crowd, but you can submit questions to each of our interviewees. And we have got some amazing people coming on. This Is Horror. In the next few days. We're going to be talking to claim a cloud Catman. We're going to be talking to Paul Tremblay. Oh, so be sitting down with Tyler Jones, and Michael J. Side, Linda. So go over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Keep the show alive. Get all those amazing benefits. All right before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:08:22

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Michael David Wilson 1:09:24

As always, I would like to end with a quote. And this is a great one from David Mamet some brilliant writing advice in a succinct quote. So he goes, every scene should be able to answer three questions. Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don't get it? Why now? I'll see you in the next episode for the conversation with Kevin Lucia. But until then, take care Area selves. Be good to one another read horror. Keep on writing and have a great great day

Bob Pastorella 1:11:03

I tell you I can't stop laughing because when you mentioned the screenplay about the guy who invented glue still laughing about that. Like, what's the what's the dramatic moment in that? You know the music's wells? It sticks.

Conner Habib 1:11:22

It sticks. Totally. But do you see that movie that was made about the guy that invented windshield wipers or something like I mean it's like just fucking insane like

Bob Pastorella 1:11:32

they work that's the dramatic moment like oh, that's the moment they put the trailer

Conner Habib 1:11:44

the barn on fire and all the horses melted, but my paper is sticking to the ground

Bob Pastorella 1:11:53

what is this

Michael David Wilson 1:11:57

I think we just found an outtake like one sentence later

Bob Pastorella 1:12:08

keep getting it out of my in a world where like you just wow

Conner Habib 1:12:19

that's great like in a world where nothing stuck to anything. One man

Bob Pastorella 1:12:27

one man, Dream tragedy was born.

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