An Interview with Gord Rollo (Horror Author)

An Interview with Gord Rollo (Horror Author)

Today I thought we’d try something a little different. Recently we partnered up with horror author Gord Rollo and will be re-releasing his entire backlist of works over these next few months. But quite honestly there’s some things I know about the man but also many, many things that I simply don’t know. So I thought why not sit down and have a chat with him? The interview follows–

ENEMYONE: Hey Gord, first off, I wanted to thank you for agreeing to drop by the blog here. I felt it might make sense to get some discussion going here between us and really, there’s a lot I’m sure I don’t know about you. Gord Rollo Photo

GORD ROLLO: Sounds like a plan. Shoot…

E1: Okay, why don’t we start with the basics — how did you start writing and why horror?

ROLLO: I was lucky enough to have a father who loved reading and writing and he passed on his love of books to me. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to write but my first serious attempts were in about grade five or six when I wrote the school play that we eventually performed in front of the whole school. As far as horror goes, it has always been what interests me and what to this day I still feel is the most honest genre to write it. We’re all scared of something and it doesn’t always have to involve chainsaws and butcher knives. Horror can be quiet and personal and in many ways that type of fiction is even scarier than the gory senseless stuff.

E1: I would agree. Have you ever ventured into any other genres?

ROLLO: Yes. I love comedy and I really love comedy crime novels. Whenever I get a little writer’s block I always turn to comedy and mystery to get my juices flowing again. I haven’t published much that wouldn’t be considered horror but lately I’ve been pushing the limits quite a bit, heading towards more dark fantasy and thrillers. To be honest, I’m just trying to write these days and letting the story go in whatever direction feels best without worrying if it’s horror or mystery or thriller. It is what it is and if the story crosses genre boundaries I’m perfectly fine with that. I think that can be much more interesting, personally. That said, I will never lose my love for horror and anything I write will have a dark slant to it for sure.

Jigsaw Man Cover (Movie)

Jigsaw Man – A Movie?

E1: I know you’ve mentioned to me that your book Jigsaw Man might be becoming a movie. Any updates on how that’s progressing? I’ve always been curious how that sort of thing works. Do you get a say in anything like the casting, development, etc? Do you get to help out on the script? Have you read a script yet?

ROLLO: Great questions and something very much on my mind these days. The answer is we are getting very close to making the JIGSAW MAN movie. The script is written and handed in. The director is on board and the production company has been approached. All we need at this point is the final green light and we can start heading towards shooting this thing. As for the script, it was written by veteran horror scriptwriter William Miller and he included me in the revisions and listened to my thoughts on several things I thought needed to be tweaked. I love the finished script and it will be a very cool movie. I’m not sure when we might get the final approval but I did just get an update yesterday that things might be getting moved ahead and that there is potential for us to start shooting as early as this January. I’ll have to keep you posted.

E1: Why don’t we talk a bit about your books? I’ve seen bits and pieces on the web about personal stories behind the development of some of your titles. ex. Jigsaw Man, Crimson. Care to share any of those stories here?

ROLLO: Sure, no problem. The back story on The Jigsaw Man involves my daughter. She was born with a fatal liver disease called Biliaria Atresia. It’s a fancy name that means the bile ducts in her liver didn’t form correctly and the corrosive bile inside her couldn’t escape her liver to get into her stomach where it usually helps us digest food. Instead, the bile was eating away her liver and her only chance at life was to have a liver transplant operation. To make a long story short, she spent most of her first year of life at Sick Kid’s Hospital in Toronto and ended up having to have three transplants. She is 17 years old now and doing great, but that first year was a nightmare of epic proportions for her and for my wife and I. I don’t want to get into it too much but the main point is that it was awful to sit there day after helpless day, frustrated and angry at the world. That stress and pain can really weigh on a person, and people are trained (especially guys) to internalize their suffering and not let their emotions show. For me, writing is the way I’ve always dealt with things that are hurting or confusing me, so years later when I was ready, I sat down to write a short story about transplants, just to clear my head a little. All the darkness I’d been storing up inside me just started pouring out of me and I just let it flow.  For that reason alone, it’s no surprise to me the book came out very visceral and nasty. It was written by an angry, frustrated father trying to deal with the fear and helplessness of his little girl’s suffering. I’m not angry, mind you, but my pent-up emotions were. I hope that makes some sense.

Most of my books and stories have a personal backstory of some sort and I think that is a good thing. Again, for me, writing is all about dealing with things that are bothering or confusing so what better subject matter to write about than things that personally are worrying me. This is where writing becomes therapy for most people and a great reason why I think everyone should write down their thoughts, even if they have no intention of selling it. But hey, if you can make yourself feel better AND make a few bucks – bonus!

E1: The Dark Side of Heaven is a shorter book by you, a novella I guess, that I haven’t seen too much press on. I thought that was a little odd so why don’t you talk about that one. Is it a recent title? Did it come out after the whole Dorchester/Leisure fiasco?

ROLLO: Yes and no. Yes, simply because I had no idea what to write while I was waiting to see what was going to happen with my New York Publisher, but mostly it came from my agent, Lauren Abramo, suggesting that I try heading a little away from the straight horror tales I was known for. It was an idea I liked and it was also at the same time that I had been asked by Dark Regions Press to write a novella with a military theme. Dark Regions had also hired two other writers, Gene O’Neill and Mike McBride to write similar themed novellas and the plan was to publish them separately and then collect them in a hardcover book called BEHIND ENEMY LINES. For years I had wanted to write a story about a soldier who volunteers for Tunnel Rat duty over in Vietnam hoping to die but instead finds a back door to Heaven down there in the dark and gets a chance at redemption while stumbling around lost somewhere between life and death. I just had this vision of a man in full military gear running toward the gates of Heaven across a battlefield while being chased by all sorts of creepy things released from Hell. The novella turned out great (in my opinion) but I would definitely agree that it slid a step or two closer to dark fantasy than I am usually known for. That’s not a bad thing, though. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

E1: I’ve noticed lately that your work appears in a lot of anthologies and other collections. Is there a structure to that line of thinking — as in brand development, etc.? Or is it something that just sort of happens? People approach you, you write something for them?

ROLLO: It’s more something that happens when you get a bit better known. For years I wrote short stories on spec (meaning no one asked me to write it) and then I’d submit it blindly to whatever magazine or anthology caught my eye or I thought the story fit. It’s not the most efficient or fun way of doing things as you get a lot of rejections or sometimes completely ignored. After you get your name out there a little more, publishers and editors (hopefully) start to like your work and begin approaching you to write things for them. The upside of course, is that the story is already accepted and you know what you are being paid before you even start. For me, this started about four years ago, and since then I don’t think I’ve written a word that hasn’t already had a good home waiting for it. It’s a much nicer way to make a living but again, you need to take your lumps in the beginning in order to prove you can produce work on a consistently professional level. I’ve been in a lot of anthologies lately because even if I don’t have time to write something new and unpublished for an editor, they sometimes will take a previously published story, or a reprint as it is known. That’s even nicer, as you get paid again for a story that is already written.The Dark Side of Heaven Cover

E1: Do you find the short story format easy to work in? Or is it harder to do the work than a novel might be?

ROLLO: I find it much harder to be honest. It’s faster, obviously, but for me I usually need more space to build my stories and ideas around and having to get my full vision inside 5000 words is excruciating for me. Maybe I have a big mouth, but I like the freedom a longer piece of work gives me for building characters and more complex plots. I like to outline my books and once I have the basic framework of the novel or novella laid out it is much easier for me to flesh it out that it is to sit down to an empty page and plow through a short story. That said, I love a well written short story and have a huge respect for writers who can pull off fully formed characters and plots with such a limited word count.

E1: What are your thoughts on publishing right now? There’s been an awful lot of changes these past couple of years with the technology of ereaders being introduced as well as several different options for readers. Do you think this is something authors should be scared of, cautious of, or maybe excited for?

ROLLO: Another great set of questions. I’m the first to admit that I was massively against the new digital revolution. I hated it. I wanted traditional publishing to stay as it was  and I’d spent ten years finally getting my foot in the door in New York City. The thought of anyone being able to publish anything they wanted horrified me and I felt undercut everything I had worked so hard to accomplish in the past. The part I was missing was that you can still do both in this day and age. Traditional publishing is still happening and no one is stopping me from still trying to pursue any and all avenues open in New York. The question is starting to become, is it worth it? Can the traditional ways of publishing give the writer more than he/she can do for themselves? It’s a personal question people must consider and still a question I’m struggling to answer for myself. I grew up dreaming of seeing my books on the shelves in bookstores alongside Dean Koontz and Stephen King but I also dreamed of making a living as a writer and getting up each morning to do what I love most. Self-Publishing might give me the best chance at that. I guess I’m in a wait and see attitude about all this but I am committed to giving it a chance and trying my very best to make it all work.

E1: What are you working on these days? Any tidbits you care to share?

ROLLO: Several things, actually. I’m working on a new novella called THE RED CROSS and it’s a dark religious story about a serial killer nailing men to crosses in downtown Oakland. It’s about half finished and it’s my priority to finish it this month. After that I want to get back to my next novel, which is tentatively called THE ANGEL OF ALCATRAZ. It’s a horror novel set back in the heyday of Alcatraz prison, but it’s more about the severely autistic daughter of the Warden than about the hardened criminals inside the cells. I’ve written the first 10,000 words already and I’m really looking forward to getting back to it as soon as I can. Besides that I’m always working on short stories and novellas.

E1: Well, I suppose we should try and wrap this up so my last two questions are fairly easy ones…

What are you reading nowadays?

ROLLO: I like to read every day, even if it’s not for hours and hours. It’s a great escape for me and again, I find it’s like taking a writing course every time I sit down with a good book. The last book I finished was a suspense/thriller called NOVEMBER MOURNS by Tom Piccirilli. Right now I’m re-reading Gillian Flynn’s fantastic second novel, DARK PLACES. I wanted to read it again just because I love her writing style. I’m also reading a comedy crime novel by Donald E. Westlake called WHAT’S SO FUNNY just for the heck of it. Westlake is an author I love and his comedy books are always a real treat for me. November Mourns Cover

E1: You know I love Westlake but I prefer his alter ego Richard Stark. You actually recommended both Flynn and Piccirilli to me! I haven’t finished Dark Places yet but I have made my way through at least 5 or 6 of Tom’s books. I prefer his crime/noir type stories over his weird, Southern Gothic horror stuff.

Alright, last question, Gord, and then we’ll leave you to it. What kind of advice do you give a new writer?

ROLLO: Writing is a pretty solitary career. You should put in years of hard work before you even get to the point of trying to sell your work. When you are ready though, my advice is to get involved with other writers who are as passionate as you. Join a critique group, or join a writer’s organization like HWA (Horror Writers Association) which I’m a member of. Attend book signings of other writers. Go to book conventions whenever you can afford it. I’m going to the KILLERCON convention in Las Vegas this month and the World Horror Convention in New Orleans next June. Get involved with other writers on the internet. Find chat rooms and message boards and anywhere else that you can network and discuss things with like-minded individuals. It’s one thing for your grandmother  or uncle to tell you your stories are wonderful. It’s much better to have 10 other professional writers give you their opinion. Other than that, the most important advice I can give you is also the easiest. Read, Read, and Read some more. You’ll learn more about writing by reading writers who are better than you than you will from any text book or writing course. Oh, one other thing. Get your butt in the seat and write. Even if it is crap; write. There are too many people who want to be writers and not enough people who actually write. Keep it simple. Sit down, shut up, write. That’s my advice.

E1: Some great advice, Gord!

Well, that about wraps this up.

One thing we do want to let you know is that starting tomorrow (Fri, Sept 14th) we will be giving away Gord’s novella Crowley’s Window for FREE on Amazon. So please do check it out, and remember to share it with everyone and anyone! The more, the merrier!

You can check out some of Gord’s books right now on Amazon too! We’ve released 3 titles so far with many more to come in the next few months. Print editions are being worked on as I type…