In this podcast, Brian Asman talks about Return of the Living Elves, unusual writing locations, Juggalos, and much more.
About Brian Asman
Brian Asman is a writer, actor, director, and producer from San Diego, CA. He’s the author of the hit indie novella Man, Fuck this House (recently optioned by a major streaming service). His other books include I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today from Eraserhead Press, Neo Arcana, Nunchuck City and Jailbroke from Mutated Media, and Return of the Living Elves.
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They’re Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella
Read They’re Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella right now or listen to the They’re Watching audiobook narrated by RJ Bayley.
The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson, narrated by RJ Bayley
Michael David Wilson 0:07
Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Brian Asman for a Christmas special. And what better way to welcome in Christmas than to talk about Brian's new book Return of the Living elves. And we have not had a celebration like this since we got Adam Milan on the podcast about nine years ago now to talk about the human centipede. So this is an episode of epic proportions. Now actually, the conversation with Brian Asman is a two parter. So we did have a podcast with Brian last episode talking about his viral book man fuck this house, but that is distinctly non Christmassy. This is the Christmas edition. So grab yourself a mince pie, a little bit of christmas pudding, maybe a glass of brandy or sherry. Or if you're me, maybe I'm maker's mark or be better to mark the occasion pun intended. But before any of that, a little bit of an advert break.
Bob Pastorella 2:00
From the host of This Is Horror Podcast comes a dark thriller of obsession, paranoia and voyeurism. After relocating to a small coastal town, Brian discovers a hole that gazes into his neighbor's bedroom. Every night she dances and he peeps, same song, same time, same wild and mesmerizing dance. But soon Brian suspects he's not the only one watching. She's not the only one being watched. They're Watching is The Wicker Man meets Body Double with a splash of Suspiria They're Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella is available from this is horror.co.uk Amazon and wherever good books are sold.
RJ Bayley 2:39
It was as if the video heard on zipped my skin slunk inside my tapered flesh and become one with me.
Bob Pastorella 2:48
From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age. The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson, after a teacher receives a weirdly rousing video, his life to send to the paranoia and obsession. More videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know. But who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything. And every one he loves. The Girl in the Video is the ring meets fatal attraction for iPhone generation. Available now in paperback ebook and audio.
Michael David Wilson 3:17
Well, hohoho it's time to jump in to the podcast with Brian Asman. On This Is Horror. So your forthcoming release is Return of the Living elves. And this begins as a tribute to the classic movie return to the living dead. And then it just goes batshit crazy all the way up to 11 and possibly even 12. So it's through the genesis of this idea. And can you confirm again that you may have gone for a title with the hope that it could have some viral potential with the very obvious not The Return of the Living Dead? I mean, it's so obvious that can we even call it a nod? It's not very subtle.
Brian Asman 4:13
It's not settled at all now. Yeah, that was definitely intentional. The title kind of popped into my head. Essentially how it started was I had just finished man fuck this house. And there's a local horror convention here I do in Southern California every year, called midsummer scream, and they when they decided that they were going to do a Christmas event called season screenings. And I was like, Well, it'd be kind of cool to have like a Christmas horror book. That kind of gave me the idea. And so I decided I wanted to write a Christmas horror book. The title returns were really nervous popped into my head pretty much immediately. Return of the Living Dead is one of my favorite films of all time, like hands down. I've seen it so many times. It's just like ever anything I want in a movie? Like, it's, it's gory. It's funny. It's got these, like, really cool relationships between people. And it's very, it's very fascinating. It's like all these people who don't have anything in common who are thrust into a situation and are finding their common bonds in real time. And the movie has like absolutely so much heart. And that's why it's a classic that's withstood the test of time. So yeah, so essentially, one of the things I've been doing over the last couple years is trying to write in different genres. So I've done things like I've done sci fi horror, I've done haunted house stuff. I've done random weird stuff. And I was like, Well, I haven't really done like a zombie book. So this will be my my version of a zombie book. And, you know, it's a seasonal book, which Yeah, I liked the idea of doing a book that potentially like every December this might pop in sales a little bit, you know, because it's a Christmas book. And there's not like, there's, there's Christmas horror movies, for sure. But as far as Christmas horror books, there's, you know, there's Charles Dickens Christmas Carol, and I don't know of a lot of other ones.
Michael David Wilson 6:16
Watch Dickens A Christmas Carol and Adam Miller lives The Human Centipede. Any Christmas fan, you know, but by the fire, but a human centipede a bit of Scrooge. And now overtime to the living yells.
Brian Asman 6:34
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, Christmas is so baked into western culture. I'm not religious myself, but grew up celebrating Christmas. And so have some affection for the, the superficial trappings of the holiday, if you will. And as I think a lot of us do a lot of fond memories of watching things like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, and all of that Frosty the Snowman. And, you know, just that certain holiday feeling that you get when the weather's cold outside. And it's like, you look outside and snowing and you've got your hot chocolate, yada, yada, yada, you know, and so, yeah, I just wanted to do a book that was my, my take on Christmas and return living dead and zombie stuff. And also kind of after coming off of Man, fuck this house. That was actually a pretty emotional book for me to write. And so I wanted to go back in the other direction totally, of something that's just like a straight up comedy. Like, just like, just like a blast or read a blast to write.
Michael David Wilson 7:43
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, it's perhaps apropos that we talk about The Return of the Living Dead. And then we think of Dan O'Bannon, and I love that he did both the Return of the Living Dead and alien. Just thinking about things that are totally so different. And I mean, that kind of illustrates your point earlier that we can show people that we've got this variety, and we've got these different modes as writers.
Brian Asman 8:16
Yeah, exactly. I'm trying to just do something a little bit different with each book. And, you know, this is much more of a comedy than Man, fuck this house, but I think it also has a strong emotional core, or at least I'd like to think that.
Michael David Wilson 8:30
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think, oh, good books do. And I mean, it's like we were saying about the greasy strangler, even though a surface level, you could take this as just like a very kind of silly, comedic wrong. It's like, you know, you can have that reading, or you can choose to kind of look deeper. And I mean, the choice is yours as a reader or reviewer,
Brian Asman 8:57
right? Yeah, exactly. That's the kind of stuff I really want to create stuff that works on multiple levels. And for the, you know, I want something that's like, with a lot of my stuff, like this book, is something that's not too intellectually challenging on one level, like, if you're just like, I just want to like, pick this up and have a good time. You can totally do that. But if you want to go a bit deeper, you can do that, too.
Michael David Wilson 9:20
And that's right. Well, what experience have you had with Juggalos?
Brian Asman 9:29
I was not expecting that. Next question. No, I think it's a really interesting subculture. And like, the thing about Juggalos AI is really it's a subculture of people who really fucking care about each other. And like, I've always been fascinated by that by, you know, people who come together on these, you know, these different things and they Under common ground, and they sort of become like de facto families. And I think that's the one like Juglans it seems weird to a lot of people who don't know anything about them that's like, Oh, these people are really into ICP, and like, Fago and whatever, but like, I don't know, I think there's something like, very fascinating and endearing about their culture. And I don't mean that in like, kind of like a, like a going on safari way at all. But yet, like, I think there's like a legitimacy and like, just a realness there. Of these people are like, You know what I like, watching two dudes and Cloudgate rap about murder. And that's cool. And, you know, I think it's really cool.
Michael David Wilson 10:45
Yeah. And maybe it's absurd to even continue down that yellow line. But did you know, early on that, you know, the story would feed? Yeah. I calcula
Brian Asman 11:00
Yeah, I mean, so I write I like I'm a pantser. So I don't really plot things out. I just, I just let it rip, basically. And so the, you know, the character of Tommy was always a juggalo. From the beginning, like the first scene, essentially, I just, I was going back to return the living dad and thinking about, like, you know, the punks in the movie, on how they contrast with like, the more buttoned up, you know, factor is like our warehouse owner, birds, and the ex Nazi Funeral Home director, Ernie Kaltenbrunner, and everything like that. And, you know, I wanted to do something that was a little more that a little more today, and honestly, the first version of this book was actually written to take place in like the late 90s. So that's kind of where the juggler thing first came in. Yeah. And cuz I read a lot of stuff that takes place in the 90s. Because that's when I grew up. And I love that era. And also cell phones, cell phones weren't really a thing. In the 90s, some people had them most people didn't. So like, when you're writing horror, it's easier just to write when you don't have to deal with cell phones. But get I think in like the second draft of this, it I just said in present day essentially, but kept kept the journalist up, because that's a subculture that's been going strong for like 25 years. And that's really awesome.
Michael David Wilson 12:33
Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, you've even got humor in many of the names you know, you've got someone called landfill. Someone
Brian Asman 12:48
that was a reference to Alyssa landfills reference to trash portrayed by Rene Quigley in return. Yeah. Yeah, of
Michael David Wilson 12:57
course. Yeah. But I mean, that the sub coat here, the landfill is part of, if I'm recalling correctly, it's kind of
RJ Bayley 13:10
Christ punts crave. That
Michael David Wilson 13:15
Brian Asman 13:16
it each of the three of them kind of have have a different definition of what a Christ bunk is. So there are three quest bumps in the book, there's landfill, there's Caterpillar, and then there's self harm, who is named after suicide and return living dead. In each of them have their own definition of what the subculture is, which I think is was very intentional, because, like, with any scene with any subculture, like, you know, like, I've been involved in like, a lot of like punk rock scenes over the years and things like that. And like, everyone has, like, their own idea about what the scene is or should be, you know, yes, but that's, that's what I was trying to illustrate there is each of them is into it for their own reasons. They have this like, common thing that they like, but they're also they're all three of them very different people.
Michael David Wilson 14:09
Yeah, yeah. Have you had much experience or interactions with Christ punks in your time?
Brian Asman 14:19
I mean, it's like a completely made up subculture for the book but like, I'm sure there is like a like a Christian punk like subculture thing. But this is just more oriented towards like, the veneration of Christmas as like a thing in our culture.
Michael David Wilson 14:37
Yeah, yeah. No, I mean, I, I feel that like, you know, it feels real and I know that there are kind of subcultures that are not dissimilar to this so you can't you shouldn't you know, you shoot a gun for the Caffee code. Yeah, route. If he says, you know, if someone says something that's not true, just lean into it, your ovary, gone on for 20 minutes about the first time you met Christ funk back in California or wherever. And
Brian Asman 15:18
I mean, like, I like I share that. But at the same time, I think the thing is this is a true subculture is even if it isn't actually true. It's like a depiction of how subcultures work. That is true and honest.
Michael David Wilson 15:33
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, did you always know that this would be an independently put out book? I mean, you've self published it with your own label? If I'm right,
Brian Asman 15:46
yes. Yeah, absolutely. That's the direction I've been going in for a couple of years now. Other than, you know, the Blackstone deal that, you know, the big releases and everything like that. I haven't worked with small presses. I'm kind of like, that's cool. I love small presses. But I also have a lot of like, desire for creative control. And, you know, I want to be able to select my own cover art, to decide what the book is, and should be when it should come out. Things like that. So I'm just kind of a little bit of a control freak. And also, honestly, just to any, like, you know, newer writers out there. Small presses are awesome, but you have to, not all of them are created equal equal. Yeah. So I think I think you'd have to kind of pick and choose, like, what's going to work for you? And you have to think about, like, what are they actually offering you so like, I tweet a lot about like vanity presses, because they fucking pissed me off. You know, and I just like the other day I tweeted about, here's the breakdown of what it costs me to put out, man, fuck this house. Because I want people to see like financially, like, this is what you have to put into a book to get it out there. And then like vanity presses, I've heard of these insane vanity presses now charging up to 30 Fucking $1,000 for a book. Can you believe that? Like $30,000? And I'm like, Okay, here's the services that they provide. And here's what it cost to put a book out. And like, you know, here's what it actually costs. Like, you know, you can put a book out for about $1,000 1500 depending on length, that includes professional editing, cover layouts, you know, set up fees on Ingram and stuff like that, you know, and then, you know, if a vanity press is charging $30,000, they're pocketing $29,000 or something like that, you know? Yeah, that's just pure, pure profit for them.
Michael David Wilson 17:50
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's so frustrating, because I mean, a lot of people. Yeah, it's kind of their dream to have a book out there in the world. So they can prey upon people, they can do this. They can dress it up for those who don't know anything about the industry in the business. But
Brian Asman 18:12
yeah, and they become so sophisticated. Like, they do a very good job of masquerading as legitimate presses now, so that's why like, I'm such a big fan of the work that Victoria Strauss does, like out in these motherfuckers. Because they are just bottom feeding scum, who like like you said, like, they prey upon people's dreams. Like they eat motherfucking people's dreams. Like How sick is that? Yeah. So yeah, that is so anyway, yeah. So I'm a big fan of like independent publishing. I truly believe that. Like nowadays, in 2022, as an indie writer, the tools are are at your disposal to put out like a, to put out a product that's on par with the biggest presses, you can do that you can put out a professional product, like my books are available in Barnes and Nobles right now. Because I like I put out a professional product, and it sits on the shelf. Like I have so many pictures that like bookstores have posted of my book on the shelf. And it's right next to like, you know, other authors like Stephen King and shit like that, you know?
Michael David Wilson 19:22
Brian Asman 19:24
I'm not saying that to brag. I'm saying that to be like, anybody can do the thing that I did.
Michael David Wilson 19:29
Yeah. So I mean, what kind of things have you done to actively get otter, you increase your odds of getting your book out there into the wild and on the shelves? Yeah. So
Brian Asman 19:45
like, I think you alluded to this a couple of times, but essentially, like choosing provocative or interesting titles, is definitely one of them. So like, everything starts with your book, you have to have a quality product and Like, I know, I'm sure there are a number of people who have read my books and be like, that was not a quality product. And that's totally fine. I love you anyway. But you have to put out something that looks professional. And so that means, again, like quality editing, quality cover art, things like that, right? You have to put out something that just looks like a like a, like an awesome book, The cover art and the title have to resonate with people. And I've been lucky and that mine do. So there's no like, you know, there's no accounting for luck. That's, that's a huge factor in this, but you can position yourself in certain ways to take advantage of whatever luck is available to you. So yeah, I think one of the things that you can do is like, honestly, a lot of advertising is a waste of money. But what's not a waste of money is Bookstagram, and booktalk. So getting getting influencers on those platforms to post about your books, is just like, in my opinion, the best way to sell independent books these days, or the best way to sell books in general. So so many bookstores have stocked my books because like they saw like something going viral on like Instagram, or on Facebook or on Twitter, you know. So if you position yourself in the best in the best position possible. If you have a book launch coming out, look up like, you know, books to grammars, book talkers, people like that, and try and get them to review your book. And so again, make sure that you review their guidelines, see if they're open for books on see if your book meets their guidelines. And, you know, just try and get as many of those people as possible to take a look at your book. The other thing I do marketing wise, is that I sell books on my website, they all come signed. And I always throw a little bit of schwag into every order. So I have like custom bookmarks, stickers, things like that. What I found is that when someone orders a book, from my website, usually about at least 30% of the time, probably more like 50% of the time, they will post it on their Facebook, on their Instagram, something like that. They'll post a picture of the book arriving in the mail with like, the stickers and the bookmarks and like, Oh, I just got this book. And look, here's the signature. And here's the doodle that Brian Drew and it for me. So doing stuff like that to connect with readers, they will help you do your marketing for you.
Michael David Wilson 22:42
Yeah, yeah. And the interesting thing about Bookstagram and book talk is, you know, we talk about social media and building a brand and cultivating a presence. But with those two in particular, we don't necessarily have to become the books, the grammar as it were, we just need to get it into the hands of people that are. So yeah, we don't need a big presence on those platforms. But it would certainly be remiss for us not, you know, utilize those platforms and to send it to the people who aren't making an impact. So you don't necessarily have to become like a heavy user of them. But you should absolutely monitor them as their marketing strategy.
Brian Asman 23:34
Yeah, absolutely. And like, I think the number one most important thing is just to remember that you're a writer, first, you're not a Twitter, you're not that you're not an Instagramer, you're not a Facebook, or you're a writer first, right. And so as long as you're putting the majority of your energy into writing, yes, you do have to do certain marketing on social media platforms. Generally, there are very few writers who have no social media presence, who are still successful. There are some, but the odds are that you will need to establish some sort of social media platform. But like you said, my goal like leaning on the people who already have those established platforms, and trying to get them to spotlight your work is a great strategy.
Michael David Wilson 24:21
Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, token about, you're predominantly a writer, that is what you should be putting the bulk of your time into. So I mean, what does your time look like in terms of how you divide your writing and other activities? And of course, I know, in addition to that, you have a day job. So what is the writing routine? What is their writing tangential routine on a weekly basis?
Brian Asman 24:57
Yeah, that's a great question. So Have I trained to have specific time, every day for writing? You know, I try and do like about an hour every day for writing. Now, that's evolved over the years, that was very strict for about five years. And then over the last, like two years or so that's changed a little bit, where if I'm in the middle of a major project, the idea is to have like, more like two hours per day. And then I'll go for, like, you know, a couple of weeks without having anything major going on. And, you know, just kind of like, doing my thing and relaxing a little bit. But, you know, I like, honestly, I think if you're just starting out, building out those habits of writing, not like, don't do, this isn't one of those, like, write everyday type things, but like, figure out like a regular writing cadence that works for you. And then stick to that is really important. So all that is to say, yeah, if I'm in the middle of a project, I have a regular writing cadence that I am trying my best to observe all the tangential stuff, like the twittering and Instagram and yadda yadda. Like, that all happens in like, free time. So if I'm like, eating breakfast, I'll like get on Twitter and like, yeah, the other like, you know, like, I'm at work, like, I take a break. And like, you know, I try and think of something funny to tweet out to tweak the algorithm, you know, yadda yadda. You know, and just like, on the weekends, like me and my girlfriend do all kinds of cool shots. So I'm just like, you know, hey, taking pictures, put them up, put them on on Instagram. Why not? You know?
Michael David Wilson 26:36
Yeah, yeah. Throw a little monitoring. Add key. Yeah.
Brian Asman 26:42
But I mean, I think my essential point is, like, a lot of the things that you need to do, you can build into your daily life, like, you don't even necessarily have to make special time for them. Like, I, I'm one of those people that just really fucking loves to write. And so like, it's like, a weekend. And like, I have like, a free four hours. And my girlfriend is my Catherine McGee, who is also a phenomenal writer that you should go check out. So like, we're both totally on the same page on this where we're like, Okay, we have the next six hours free before you have to do anything. Let's go somewhere else, right. And we're just like, sit there and just like, write stories. And it's amazing.
Michael David Wilson 27:25
Yeah, well, I some of the coolest or most unique places you've written.
Brian Asman 27:32
So I'm really big into grinder breweries. And so I will I like, I loved it. Like I live in Southern California, where there's like a brewery, like every like five minutes, basically. So I'll try and go to like different breweries. And like, you know, grab a flight of beer and sit there and write for a bit. That's one of my big major moves. There are some horror themed ones that are really cool. There's one called black plague in Oceanside, which is part of oblique pardoned by Tony Hawk. And it's like really cool, like horror related. My friend, I have some friends who run a pizza place in Long Beach, called the fourth horseman, that is an amazing, it's also a horror art gallery. So if you're ever in the region, definitely go check that out. So one of the other things I've done throughout my career is I do like method writing. I like to call it where if I have a scene that takes place at a particular like, like location, I will go to that location to write the scene. So just to give you a couple examples of that, early on, there was a story I was writing that took place in an Ikea. And so I went to my local IKEA. And I went to like, the section where they have like all like the like the home office section. And I sat behind the desk, and I sat there writing the story that took place in the IKEA. And people kept coming out to me and asking me like, hey, excuse me, where are the where's the kitchenware section? and shit like that? And I was just like, yeah. I do stuff like that. There's another story I read that took place. So where I live in San Diego, in Mission Beach, there's like this causeway that goes out into the ocean and there's like a, like an old fishing shack, like a derelict fishing shack that's covered in graffiti that's there. So I was reading the story that took place in that fishing that fishing shack. So went out there and like sat in there. And like, what the story there and it was kind of funny because they're like, like, like high school kids that were coming out to like smoke weed in the fishing shack, and I was just like, they like look at me. I'm like, Don't mind me. Like, I'm just writing a story. You guys like, do your thing like I'm not a fucking narc?
Michael David Wilson 29:58
That's amazing. Yeah,
Brian Asman 30:00
yeah, I find like when you when you really love writing and you build it into your life, like you can write in all kinds of weird places. It's a lot of fun to do that sometimes.
Michael David Wilson 30:11
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I guess it's good for you and Catherine that you're both horror writers. So you kind of you kind of get it, you kind of get the you do need a reasonable chunk of time to just be creative. And to just write, I suppose the, the only drawback of that might be that you understand it so much that you can spend a lot of your time writing rather than, you know, going other places and doing other things.
Brian Asman 30:43
Or, I mean, we have, I think we balance it pretty well. But we both just love talking about stories. So we're like, we're constantly like, bouncing story ideas off of each other and things like that. Yeah. So it's definitely a lot of fun.
Michael David Wilson 30:59
Yeah, yeah, for sure. That we're
Brian Asman 31:02
both into, like a lot. We both like, have a lot of different hobbies, and are big believers in the fact that like, in order to be a really effective writer, you have to do other things as well. You have to get on live life. So like, you know, we both love hiking, so like, you know, we'll go hiking and like, I think honestly, like getting the endorphins going like through physical activity is a great way to be productive as a writer.
Michael David Wilson 31:26
Yeah. Yeah. Well, in that sense, and, and just to be happy as a human being, you know, too much time just kind of in the apartment. Writing, then, you know, it's going to affect my mental health. I have to get out there. I have to get into the sun. I have to exercise I have to live. Yeah, that's just a way that it goes. And if if you're not living Then what the fuck are you even drawing from to write? You're gonna run? Kelly.
Brian Asman 31:57
Yeah, exactly. You can't just like huddle and you're like, your little like attic, or something like Edgar Allan Poe or whatever. And like, sit there and like, write all that you have to like, go on live life. And, you know, yeah, I'm a big believer in that.
Michael David Wilson 32:11
Sometimes you just have to go into an IKEA and not help people.
Brian Asman 32:24
100% Enjoy some meatballs while you're there because they're delightful.
Michael David Wilson 32:29
Yeah, why not? I mean, there are a few things that people can agree on these days. But the meatballs that I key here are worth checking out is one of the few universal truths left perhaps if Jane Austen were writing today, she would have referenced that.
Brian Asman 32:48
I think so. Actually, weird, sad question. Are there IKEAs in Japan
Michael David Wilson 32:55
that are Hi there. Yeah. That that, isn't it?
Brian Asman 33:00
I was just curious. That's cool.
Michael David Wilson 33:04
He's like, curious. I know, for a moment you were gonna say you're afraid to uh, you know, you were worried they want
Brian Asman 33:11
to know, why would I be afraid?
Michael David Wilson 33:14
But my brain doesn't always work logically.
Brian Asman 33:19
Guys, yeah, I was just curious, because I can't so weird to me, because like, it's so completely Swedish. And yet it's become such like an intrinsic part of American life. And so like, just that weird cultural blend, like being exported to different countries. It's just interesting to me that,
Michael David Wilson 33:38
yeah, yeah, they exploited as far as Japan. I can confirm that.
Brian Asman 33:45
Oh, there's those Vikings conquering the world.
Michael David Wilson 33:48
Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, in terms of your writing strategy now so much is there is one, is it fair to say that you'll be looking at putting the longer works out, like your novels with more traditional publishers and then then novellas and the shorter pieces independently, it sounds like that is the route you're opting for. And it is, I mean, is that something you've discussed with Danny in terms of the pros and cons? I mean, perhaps it's difficult to sail Justin Avella to acquire additional publisher even though we are seeing more publishers branching out or at least considering that
Brian Asman 34:37
job. Great questions. So from what I've heard, traditional publishers have not been interested in novellas but I feel like that's gonna change if it's not already changing because the horror like as you guys know, the horror novella has swept the world. Like that is one of the primary forms of horror fiction these days. Um, like people love them because like, you know, I think it's a really like almost a perfect length for horror. Like that short, sweet that they'll I feel like with horror novels like, I don't know, like, with that much length, like you get this amazing depth of story but like, I feel like horror almost works better in at the novella length or the short story length a lot of the time. And when you write a novel, it almost becomes something else. You know, it becomes like more like dark fantasy, it becomes more like adventure thrillers, things like that, like, I don't want to get into like genre gatekeeping or anything boring like that. But like, like, so like, I generally think like, if you write a short horror story, you can totally have a downer ending. If you write a novella, I think you can have a downer ending, but like, with most horror novels that I've read, like, there's at least some like, you know, kind of more upbeat ending to them, usually. You know, if you think about like it or something like that, you know, because I think when people commit to like something that's that long form, they kind of don't want a downer ending necessarily. So I think it can be a little bit limiting, again, like this. Not every book yet. I know all the you know, I know it's not true in every instance. But I think that those are kind of like trends that I that I see when I read novels versus novellas. So I think you have a little bit more flexibility with the with the novella form. I don't know. But yeah, so my age and I have talked this over. And my goal has always been to be a hybrid author. Like I would love, love, love to continue putting out novels with bigger presses, and get that like, you know, that publicity machine behind me. But at the same time, I really wants the creative freedom of being able to put things out on my own as well.
Michael David Wilson 37:04
Yeah. Yeah. And it's interesting to to see with yourself and Man, fuck the sounds so so we've Eric La Rocca, who we mentioned. Also with Nathan Balin, crude, divisible filth, then yes, wounds and also, Josh Malerman are housed at the bottom of a lake. I'm not I promise, I'm not deliberately just flooding this as our releases, but they are relevant that these were put out either independently or with small presses. And then they were picked up by bigger presses by huge publishing, as is, and often but not exclusively packaged as a short story collection. So I, I feel that I mean, of course, if you self publish a novel, it's a harder pitch for you to convince a big press to now, you know, put this out again, because you're essentially reprinting it. But if you've got a novella, this kind of this kind of a hook, you can say, Okay, well, this is going to be part of a short story collection, or this is going to be expanded or this is going to be Oh, so I do think that if we write these novellas, it's almost like a promotional tool to entice, you know, these bigger presses and you resell it.
Brian Asman 38:35
Yeah, I think it absolutely is, you know, it's a couple of years ago, when I was first starting out with my agent, we were talking about how to build my platform, right? And so anyone can go make a Twitter and say that they're a writer, yada, yada. And like, granted, if you write words, you're a writer. Like, I don't want to get into that kind of gatekeeping. But in order to build a platform and establish yourself as someone of like, credibility, you have to have work out there, you know. And so it's one of those things where it's like, okay, you have my novel, you're shopping that around, how do I get your work out there? And like a novella was a great way to do that. To put work out into the world and see what resonates with people.
Michael David Wilson 39:19
Bob Pastorella 39:22
I feel that the big publishers, I don't know, it's like for every time I hear that the big publishers are gonna start like, you know, to embrace the novella Well, or better than they have than we don't see that many big publishers put out in the fellas. It's only after like, they've had some kind of established track record. There's, to me, there's always someone on the big publishers team has gone well, nope. They're just not really very viable in the market. And it's like, can you change your mind just for one fucking second, and take a chance on something and that's the problem. No one wants to take a chance on me anything. So I would, I would love to see traditional publishers start to put out more develops. And I always hold out hope and I've been hoping for a long time. And I just don't I don't see it yet done. The fellows are the things that are making the films that we enjoy to watch that are people that are talking about, they're coming from the fellas. And so yeah, it's like, it's like they shoot yourselves in their own foot. You know, someone's gonna have to fucking just take a chance on something. Understand how the corporate world works I work for a corporation is notoriously stingy with money. So, you know, it's but it to me, it's just like, it's easy for me to say, somebody needs to take a chance on something. And I understand that, but damn it, they do.
Brian Asman 40:52
Yeah, I mean, I think we are getting to like a, like an inflection point where the success of novellas is impossible to ignore. You know, like, we brought up like, like you said, My go like Bob like Eric La Rocca, like, you know, he his novella took the world by storm. And then he's, you know, published a bunch of other stuff from there. That's like, also been super successful. And like his, his, his other novella, you've lost a lot of blood that he actually put out himself has been massively successful. You know, and then we have, you know, in Belgrade, who I think it's really cool that the visible felt came out with This Is Horror. I remember reading that like five or six years ago, and just being blown away, and then be like, Oh, wait, this is a movie on Hulu now. Oh, that is fucking bananas. Yeah. You know, like, and so I think there's something undeniable about the energy the novella has. I think, in our world right now, it's the perfect way to bridge the gap between like, the limited attention span like Twitter, Youtube bullshit, and like, actual, like, books like not to sound elitist, but like, you know, it's it's kind of a compromise between devoting yourself to 400 pages of whatever and, or, or like watching, like, dumb videos on Tiktok. Yeah, like, it's, it's, it's between. And I think publishers are starting to take notice. And I think they will continue to see. But we will continue to see like, novellas take the world by storm. And the bigger publishers will have no choice but to go, Okay, we need to actually like, maybe start putting some of these things out. I think also, the other thing is like, publishers have always put out novella length things, but they haven't called them novellas necessarily, like, short novels have always been like a thing. Like, I don't know if you guys have read James solaces drive, which is the book that the movie was based on. That's a very thin novel, like that might be like, technically individual length. Like, I'd be surprised if that's 40,000 words. It's very short.
Michael David Wilson 43:16
Yeah. Yeah, I think over 100 pages,
Bob Pastorella 43:21
right. And it's, you know, the way that they they describe a novella, I think it throws off a lot of people because like, the central definition is like, you know, one character, one instance, you know, of something happening. And then you have something like the hellbound heart that has chapters and different points of view. You know, it's like, Clive Barker wrote a novel that's very, very short, that you get in one setting. But the, the scope of it is so big, that they were silly to wait to put it out in the US, you know what I mean? It was like, Yeah, came out in night and visions, which is, if you can find it, excellent paperback to have. But that's how that's how it actually came out into the world. It was part of this package book called night visions. And then it was released later after the movie came out. And it's like, he wrote a fucking novel people if you just because you could sit there and read it in one sitting doesn't mean that it's not a fucking novel. Sorry. You know, it's the scope of it.
Michael David Wilson 44:29
Brian Asman 44:30
Yeah. I think the distinctions between what is a novella, what is a novel, those are all very fungible. Like, if you Google, how long is a novella, you will come up with a couple of different answers, right? Some people say it's 30,000 words, some say it's 40,000 words, some say it's 35,000 words. Who knows? Like these are all it's kind of a genre. Where like, genre is a marketing term. You know, and so obsessing over these things like but it does. How far does it really get? Yeah. You know, you have to be conversant in it. Yes. But like, I like I don't know, like how far it really gets you as far as obsessing over the details.
Bob Pastorella 45:13
Right? Yeah, it's it's almost pointless to me if there's so many definitions and no one's going to agree upon its standard. Then nation just called books books. The new book.
Brian Asman 45:26
Yeah. And I mean, who is qualified to set that standard? Right? Shouldn't be Penguin Random House? Should it be Simon and Schuster? Should it be? Bob Pastorella?
Bob Pastorella 45:38
I don't know. Yeah. Right.
Brian Asman 45:41
Like, whose definition of what a novel versus a novella is? Really Matters? I don't know.
Bob Pastorella 45:47
We should take away all those definitions, a longish story by Bob Pastorella. Yeah.
Brian Asman 45:54
Yeah, it's kind of like pornography. Right. We're like, I know, a short story when I see it. I feel like this short story is kind of a novelette.
Michael David Wilson 46:04
Yeah. I mean, I feel like from a technical standpoint, a novel begins at 40,000 words, therefore, the longest novella you can have is 39,999. Words,
Brian Asman 46:22
according to a lot of definitions, but not all of them. Like I see. definitions that say it's 30,000 or 35. You know,
Michael David Wilson 46:30
yeah, I ignored this definition. decided the person we
Brian Asman 46:39
David Wilson decides what the fucking developers fucking
Michael David Wilson 46:43
I'm very passionate about this. And I've you know, I've said it on dead headspace as well, well, so I envy you know, correct them on definitions. But the interesting thing is that, whilst a novel is absolutely 40,000 words, and there is that is not subjective, that is an objective measure. A lot of publishers will only take a novel and say it's not full length, if it's, you know, over 50,000. So we've got this gray area of 40 to 49,999 word novels that are effectively homeless, because, yeah, whilst they are a novel, no one wants to take them. But I think despite this passionate kind of discourse on the definition, what you said before is right, that ultimately, it doesn't really matter. You know, what matters is Is it a good story? Right? That's yeah, it comes down to
Brian Asman 47:49
right. And I think all of us have read a book that either was like, had subplots that needed to be fleshed out, or had things that like, were obvious pattern, right? Yeah. So like, there's all kinds of books that probably are not at their optimal word count, frankly. And so it's kind of like, I don't know, like, if I have something that's 60, like, if I had somebody that's like, like you said, 49,000 words? Would I be better served to cut a subplot or two and get it down under 40? Would I be better served to like, try and add some padding to get over the hump? I don't know. Or could it just be what it is? Should we just let it be what it is?
Bob Pastorella 48:32
We should? But there's so many people that will just go, oh, well, I can definitely stretch it out to 55,000 words for that kind of money.
Michael David Wilson 48:45
But the problem, yeah, the problem is, as well, you know, I know, officers who they have been asked to make their story more bloated. Now, I'm sure they didn't phrase it in that way. But they've had to stretch out the story, they've had to add words, because commercially, they couldn't put out a 40,000 or a 50,000 word novel, they wanted it to be 80 or 90. So you might commercially be getting, you know, a more approved product, but you're 100% not getting a better story.
Brian Asman 49:20
Right? Yeah, like it's really obvious if you go back to like, the horror paperbacks of like the 80s and the 90s, where we'll be reading a particular story and there's some like, you know, drawn out scene that runs on for like, 30 pages or something like that. And you're like, you don't need to describe all of these actions and yet, like every action is described in like excruciating detail and you're like, This is obvious pattern because they had to, like hit a certain word count. And they also had to do for other of these, like, per years, so like, yeah, you know, like I like I love Richard layman, don't get me wrong, but there are a number of his books I've read worldwide. Like, you enter into certain scenes where like, this is the padding part. Yeah. And you're like, yeah, it's just like, I remember in the Richard Lehmann novel come out tonight, which is, like, I, it's a lot of fun. And don't get me wrong, like, every book I've read is it's so much fun. But there's like an extended scene where these two teenage boys like find this woman who has been brutalized, and like, there's this scene of them, like, helping her into a bikini for some reason. And it's just say, like, it takes 20 Fucking pages for them to like, help this poor woman into a bikini. And it's so like, What the fuck is going on? This is so obvious batting.
Michael David Wilson 50:45
Yeah, yeah. Just insane. Oh, no, I kinda want to find that I want to
Brian Asman 50:55
experience it's honestly I recommend everyone read that book because it's a fucking experience. And like, there will never be another like Richard layman. Like he. He was so like, amazingly readable. Like, when I'm like, this is obvious patty. And I'm like, I'm still enjoying it just because like, his writing style was just so bouncy and fun.
Michael David Wilson 51:15
Yeah, yeah. No, I absolutely blitzed through all of his books that I've read. But I do not recall reading 20 pages of two teenage boys helping a woman into a bikini. So perhaps I haven't read that one and need to find that out just to just to experience that.
Brian Asman 51:41
It's just, it's so ridiculous and indulgent. And then like, they all bond over the fact that like, all three of them are Rush Limbaugh fans somehow, like,
Bob Pastorella 51:51
Michael David Wilson 51:56
So, I mean, what can you tell us about your forthcoming debut novel? Good dogs?
Brian Asman 52:04
Hmm. So I'm not sure how much I can actually reveal at this point. But I can say it's a werewolf novel. And it's a little bit of a different spin on werewolves than you'd seen before, hopefully. And yeah, I'm really excited about this.
Michael David Wilson 52:21
Yeah. Would I any werewolf books or films that you experienced in anticipation of writing this? There were Yeah.
Brian Asman 52:32
So Stephen Graham Jones is good. Sorry. mongrels, was a definitely an influence. Like I just loved what he did with werewolves there. And how he took them in in a different direction. So there's that the book itself is loaded down with references to like various werewolf films like everything. The how lane to the original, like Wolfman, like universal movies, to American Werewolf in London, all that stuff. So those were all like very huge influences on me going into writing the book.
Michael David Wilson 53:07
Yeah, yeah. Well, can you tell us if tonally, this is going to be for one of a better word one of your more kind of serious pieces like Man fuck this house? Or if it's gonna be more balls to the wall guns they're like return to the living elves? Or is this something kind of in between? What kind of tone and ascetic Have you gone for?
Brian Asman 53:36
Yeah, so tonally, it's a lot more serious than other stuff I've published before for sure. So it's not like it's not like Joker minute type stuff like return Liberty notes at all? Yeah. Yeah, it's with the book. I'm trying to get the core of what it is to be saddled with this like, with lycanthropy? Basically. Yeah, you know, and how you deal with that, right? And then like, how, like, what are the knock on effects for how you choose to deal with that?
Michael David Wilson 54:13
Well, I'm looking forward to reading it and talking about it forever when the time is right. Thank you.
Brian Asman 54:23
Yeah, I cannot wait to share this one with everyone.
Michael David Wilson 54:26
Yeah, yeah. Well, of course, as well as writing for the paid you screen right, including films such as a haunting in Ravenwood. So I'm wondering, what lessons have you learned from writing screenplays that you can apply to your fiction writing?
Brian Asman 54:50
So that's been a really interesting journey for me. I originally started out as a prose writer exclusively. I had no interest in right I mean screenplays until I went through my MFA program. And they were like, you have to take a cross. And I was like, Okay, I'll try screenwriting. And I fell in love with it. But the the interesting thing is, when you write screenplays, it's such a visual form, that when you go back to writing prose, you bring certain things with you. And so like, I feel like my presence has become a lot more visual, because of writing screenplays. And I also write contracts. And so that's another thing in and of itself, right? Where it's like, it's kind of like writing a screenplay. But like, you're only dealing with single frames at a time. So it's even more complex. Mm hmm.
Michael David Wilson 55:45
Yeah. And in terms of how you're dividing your writing time now, or even how you're kind of thinking of yourself as a writer in identity, I mean, we see yourself as predominantly still a writer of boats and a writer of fiction. What is the kind of balance between, you know, deciding you're gonna write a comic, or you're gonna write a book, or you're gonna write a screenplay?
Brian Asman 56:17
I mean, a lot of it has to do with whatever opportunities are presented to me at any given time, for sure. But I consider myself a storyteller first and foremost. And so those are all just different tools that you can use to tell stories.
Michael David Wilson 56:33
Yeah. Yeah. As someone who predominantly pants is his work, I mean, so you're typically going into something cold. But when you go into it, do you typically know if it's going to be a novel or novella, or by the nature of pantsing? You just, yeah, you don't know what the word count will be. So it's kind of a lottery each time.
Brian Asman 57:06
I know, I generally know what's going to be from the start, whether I'm trying to write a novella, or whether I'm trying to write a novel. Yeah, I have that idea in mind. And I write towards that even though I am pantsing. But when I, you know, when I pants, it's like, I have an endpoint in mind always like, so it's not just random. I generally know what the story is, I know what the big beats are going in. So I am kind of plotting, I guess, in my head. You know, I just like I have a start point and point I'm working towards that end point. But sometimes, like things surprise me as they happen.
Michael David Wilson 57:47
Yeah. Yeah. So I suppose to then, I mean, if you're writing a novella, despite it being Penn State must affect the rhythm and the pacing of the story, as opposed to a novel just because you know that you've only got a real finite amount of words.
Brian Asman 58:11
Right? Yeah, that's definitely first and foremost, in my mind, I think when I'm sitting down to write something, it's going okay, I only have this much space to tell this story. And, you know, I don't know, I think it stops me from going off on too many tangents. But I think with any story idea, I have an idea of, essentially what it needs to be whether it's like a full novel idea, or whether it's a novella idea. I think those are both just such like valid forms of storytelling. That like I don't like I don't really worry too much about it. Like, I don't know, it just is what it is.
Michael David Wilson 58:52
Yeah. Yeah. What is it you're working on at the moment?
Brian Asman 58:58
So right, right at the moment, I'm working on a book called our black hearts be this one. And it's very different than anything I have published thus far. It's not a comedy at all, it's a tragedy. It's really inspired by some stuff I went through last year, and me coming out of it. And, you know, again, me just always trying to stretch myself as a writer and do something different. Like I said, I don't want to like repeat myself, I don't want to just do the same thing all the time. You know, this book was like, Okay, can I write something that's very, like, tragic and serious and, you know, meaningful to me and like, really expressing like, or like kind of actually purging a bunch of feelings I needed to, like purge, basically.
Michael David Wilson 59:54
Yeah. Do you find that writing is often cathartic? A core is often about processing moments in your life be any good or bad?
Brian Asman 1:00:08
I think it can be and often is, yeah. I mean, writing is always about processing, I think. It just depends on how we're like where you are, and what the story wants to be and what you're interested in.
Michael David Wilson 1:00:26
All right. Well, to wrap up, and certainly not a traditional way of wrapping up, but I know that you alluded to this earlier. And I think you've written on social media about it before and said something along the lines of I will accept any way a writer wants to get rid of a smartphone for a story. So what are some of the most insane or inventive ways that you've ever heard about or conceived off to eliminate a smartphone and or technology from a story?
Brian Asman 1:01:05
Well, definitely, Halloween 2018 When Cameron, the boyfriend froze Allison's cell phone into like a, like some sort of dip. And we're not really sure what this is, or what it's supposed to be. But like, he throws it into this like kind of like, very gelatinous substance and that gets rid of the cell phone. So that's, that's definitely one way to do it. I think having someone dropped their phone and break it is actually a pretty realistic way to handle it. Because who hasn't dropped their phone at some point? Yeah. You know, I think too, like honestly, like, like, cell phone service isn't always great everywhere. You know, when, you know, when I drive out to the mountains or something like that, I'll like drop service here and there. So there are definitely ways to do it that I think are believable.
Bob Pastorella 1:02:02
I think one of the best ones ever was income to daddy.
Michael David Wilson 1:02:07
You Yeah, I like that. We've gotten fo Toby have it.
Bob Pastorella 1:02:12
But it was such a great fucking scene. I mean, it was just it's, it shortens to the point it shows character foreshadows. And he's just, you know, he's the man that there's no other phone in the world like that. And he's like, Well,
Michael David Wilson 1:02:30
for those who haven't seen it, tell people from the start of that exciting scene between the father and son
Bob Pastorella 1:02:40
Elijah one's character has this one of a kind phone. T It's like, what one about 100 or something like that. It was especially designed phone and they're looking over his his father's his house and looking over at the ocean, and there's, there's there's a cliff there and they want it he wants to get a picture. ad for him and his dad and his dad fucking knocks the phone out of his hand. Just looking down the fucking clip. See it spinning? And he's like, that's like my phone. You know, there's another one's like it, you know? And I can't record he says but he's like
Michael David Wilson 1:03:30
He says that there were only 20 of those phones in the world. And then without missing a be very deadpan his dad says. And now they're in 19.
Bob Pastorella 1:03:45
But it's it's a it's an incredible scene. After you watch the movie, then you realize how much fucking foreshadowing that was? And I don't want to spoil anything. But if you have not seen come to data you should. That's great movie.
Michael David Wilson 1:04:01
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, thank you so much for spending the majority your evening here. And with us. This has been a hell of a lot of fun. It has been informative. It's been funny, and we really appreciate you taking the time. Hey, I
Brian Asman 1:04:24
always appreciate being here. My goal. So thank you and Bob so much. And it's yeah, it's been a great talk.
Michael David Wilson 1:04:32
All right, where can our listeners connect with you?
Brian Asman 1:04:36
Cool. Yeah. So I'm mostly on Twitter. At the Brian azmin. My website is Brian asmin books.com. You can get all kinds of like cool sign books there if you're into that kind of thing. And yeah, so hit me up.
Michael David Wilson 1:04:54
All right. Do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with
Brian Asman 1:05:00
Wow, honestly, write the kind of books that you want to read. That's my biggest piece of advice to anyone. That's what I've always done. I go like what what sort of book is going to make me really excited? And then that's what I go on. Right so that's, you know, if you want to write that's what you got it
Michael David Wilson 1:05:21
thank you so much for listening to our Christmassy edition. This Is Horror Podcast are Brian Asman because nothing says Christmas, like some Juggalos I hope that you have some company for Christmas. What the fuck am I talking about? I can't even do this seriously. Look, I hope that you have a good Christmas, I hope that you have a great holiday season, that you have something special planned, that you're going to enjoy time with your friends and family and loved ones. You know, I hope you've got some good things come in in 2020 free as well. I've had a rough couple of years, but I'm optimistic that 2023 is gonna be the best year for me in a good while I'm quite hopeful in terms of the direction that my life might go in. I hope you're hopeful too. I hope that you've got some good things coming up. And speaking of things that we've got coming up next episode is with John Niven, a fantastic offer the author of books such as kill your friends and the FUCKIt list and also the writer of a number of great films including the trip which is on Netflix. He also did a pass on the popular film violent night which people have been talking about recently talking about Christmasy things. And if you want to get that John Niven podcast ahead of the crowd and you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd if you want the ability to submit questions for guests that we've got coming up, including the legendary David J. scow, then you my friend want to become a firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash This Is Horror. It is the best way to support the podcast it is the best way that we can support you too because we have the right as forum on Discord. Not only can you get help for your story from other people, can you be part of a great community that's going to support you but you can also direct message me on Discord if you've got any questions you think I can help you with with your story provided you know you don't want me to fully edit it via direct messenger. That wouldn't be a good way to go about it anyway. But yes patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror is the place to go is the place to support us. And I can't wait to see you there. All right before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.
RJ Bayley 1:08:01
It was as if the video hit on zips my skin slunk inside my tapered flesh and become one with me.
Bob Pastorella 1:08:09
From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age. The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson. After a teacher receives a weirdly rousing video, his life descends into paranoia and obsession. More videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know. But who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything and everyone he loves. The Girl in the Video is the ring meets fatal attraction for iPhone generation. Available now in paperback ebook and audio. From the host of This Is Horror Podcast comes a dark thriller of obsession, paranoia and voyeurism. After relocating to a small coastal town, Brian discovers a hole that gazes into his neighbor's bedroom. Every night she dances and he peeps, same song, same time, same wild and mesmerizing dance. But soon, Brian suspects he's not the only one watching. She's not the only one being watched. They're Watching is The Wicker Man meets Body Double with a splash of Suspiria. They're Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella is available from this is horror.co.uk. Amazon and wherever good books are sold.
Michael David Wilson 1:09:19
You know, I've been pondering so much recently. And one question that I asked myself when considering my life when considering my actions and indeed, the direction that I would like to go is would I rather be a good person or a happy person? And that can be a difficult one to ponder because really, I mean, we want to balance that we want to be a good person, but we also would like to have some semblance of happiness. But on pondering it, I did decide that if I had to choose between the two in this fucking weird hypothetical, then I would definitely choose to be a good person, if it's a good person or a wealthy person and I would use a good person too. And often when confronted with choices, it is good to go with the good as Dallas Mayor Ketchum said so I will leave you with that as we head in to this holiday season a time where we traditionally go with a good but let's not just do it at Christmas. Let's do it all year round. So, until next time, take care yourselves, be good to one another, or read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day